Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The power of words....

Yes, I'm an English major and definitely a die-hard word-nerd, but this morning I stopped in mid-spoonful while eating breakfast because of a news story.

I don't remember if I was watching CNN or MSNBC, but the reporter and two commentators, representing both sides of the issue, were discussing a trial and the judge's controversial ruling that words like 'rape', 'victim', and 'sexual assault' are not to be used in his courtroom because of the connotations tied to words like these. Apparently, not even the victim - I'm sorry, accuser - is allowed to use these words to describe what happened to her, which I think is absolutely ridiculous. To ban the accuser from using these words forces her to describe what happened to her as 'sex', which, as the writer of the linked article writes, has connotations as well. 'Sex' implies that what occurred was consensual, and to force someone who has been victimized - allegedly or otherwise - perpetuates the whole idea of "false reporting", the idea that women are liars. So often the media focuses on so-called incidences of false reporting when in all actuality, something like 96% of sexual assaults reported were legitimate. Yet another way that society at large victimizes women - by telling the masses that raped women aren't to be believed. It makes me absolutely sick.

The judge's decision does nothing but feed into that. Does the guy deserve a fair trial? Of course, everyone does.

But doesn't the accuser deserve to be able to use the words she feels are necessary in order to get her side of the story out there? Doesn't she deserve fairness in this trial too?


Susan said...

I'm absolutely livid after reading this article. Just goes to show how patriarchal our society really is...especially our so-called "justice" system.

(Maybe he should ban the word "justice" from his courtroom, too.)

Do I really need to say this? Rape and Sex are two totally different things. Anybody with the tiniest smidgen of good sense--male or female--knows this.

I wonder: is the word "victim" only banned in rape cases? For example, what would they call the victim during a murder trial: "the allegedly deceased"?

Ridiculous. I hope they throw this bozo off the bench. And out a window.

Melissa said...

I know, right!?!?! I was so utterly disgusted the more I looked into this issue but it totally proved how words or the censoring of words can make the same story sound so drastically different. Imagine that something terrible happened to you but you were prohibited from calling the incident by what it was....I don't think that either of us are off-target in our thinking - this judge guy is unbelievable.

When someone testifies in court, they have to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, yada yada yada. Well what does this judge expect when he censors this woman's story? Because it sure as hell can't be the whole truth, I'll tell you that.

Again, it's things like this that help to perpetuate the whole blame-the-victim syndrome, the overexposed and usually false idea behind "false reporting", and it's definitely a contributor as to why most rape victims never report the crime. Who's going to believe them anyway, right?

This whole thing makes me so sick!!!!!!! GRRRRRR!!!!!