Well, for the courts at least. Last June, I wrote about a woman who refused to abide by the rules the judge set forth in her trial. The rule she broke? She used the word "rape" in her rape trial.
Sure, it's a powerful word. The judge thought it was too powerful, and that it would sway the jury. So a woman who had been raped was supposed to call this pivotal moment in her life "intercourse" or "sex."
The trial ended in a hung jury (maybe they were confused by all the euphemisms) and Terry Bowen, the woman who is fighting for her right to say "rape," sued. This is what the appeals court had to say (via Feministing):
The lawsuit argued that Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront violated Tory Bowen's constitutional rights in barring her from using certain words during her testimony in the trial, in which she said Pamir Safi sexually assaulted her.
While Cheuvront barred Bowen from using phrases and words like "rape kit" and "victim" in her testimony, he allowed Safi's attorneys to use words such as "sex" and "intercourse" when describing the encounter between Safi and Bowen.
Oh good. So now he'll ban the words "murder" and "robbery" from the courts, right? We wouldn't want to confuse the jury. What about "knife" is that safe to say? How about "he forced me to have sex"? Is that more appropriate?
Language is powerful (as we've seen demonstrated by the Bush years) and this Nebraska judge is abusing this power. This appeals court decision makes me want to scream.
Rape needs to be shoved into people's faces. It's a fact of life that we conveniently ignore. It's a symptom of a much larger problem: men (and sometimes women) in society who feel the need to demonstrate their power. Maybe that's why Jennifer Baumgardner is selling this t-shirt:The only way to start fixing the problem is by talking about it. If we can't even do that in a courtroom, where the hell are we?