Friday, June 29, 2007


Gag Order

A Nebraska judge bans the word rape from his courtroom.
By Dahlia Lithwick
Usually we leave it up to the linguists and philosophers to muse on the crazy relationship between words and their meanings. In the law, words—the important ones, at least—are defined narrowly, and judges, lawyers, and jurors are trusted to understand their meanings. It's precisely because language is so powerful in a courtroom that we treat it so reverently.

Yet a Nebraska district judge, Jeffrey Cheuvront, suddenly finds himself in a war of words with attorneys on both sides of a sexual assault trial. More worrisome, he appears to be at war with language itself, and his paradoxical answer is to ban it: Last fall, Cheuvront granted a motion by defense attorneys barring the use of the words rape, sexual assault, victim, assailant, and sexual assault kit from the trial of Pamir Safi—accused of raping Tory Bowen in October 2004.

Safi's first trial resulted in a hung jury last November when jurors deadlocked 7-5. Responding to Cheuvront's initial language ban—-which will be in force again when Safi is retried in July—-prosecutors upped the ante last month by seeking to have words like sex and intercourse barred from the courtroom as well. The judge denied that motion, evidently on the theory that there would be no words left to describe the sex act at all. The result is that the defense and the prosecution are both left to use the same word—-sex—-to describe either forcible sexual assault, or benign consensual intercourse. As for the jurors, they'll just have to read the witnesses' eyebrows to sort out the difference.

Men don't rape women. Dicks do.

But dicks never take responsibility for the horrible things that they do to women. Instead, they play the sick game of Blaming The Victim. ("That stupid bitch made me rape her!") What's worse, although dicks are too stupid to understand the word "No", they're still cunning enough to manipulative the language and give themselves an alibi.

And dicks always get help from other dicks. In this barbaric interpretation of the law, Jeffrey Cheuvront proved himself to be no different than the rapist in his courthouse: That stupid bitch made me rape her again!

In this case the subtext is this: We Own You.

And property doesn't have any rights. Or a voice.

As George Orwell wisely observed, "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity". In other words, don't piss on my face and call it rain.

That's what dicks do.

Go to Slate and read the rest.


jasyjen said...

UNBELIEVABLE! All the rights belong to the victimizer and not the victim? Nothing like being raped twice, you now?