Fighting Rape: Brave and Smart

A woman is fighting back against an unreasonable judge in a rape case (from Feministing):

Remember the Nebraska judge who banned the word ‘rape’ during a rape case?

Well the alleged rape victim is having none of it.

“I refuse to call it sex, or any other word that I’m supposed to say, encouraged to say on the stand, because to me that’s committing perjury. What happened to me was rape, it was not sex.”

She says she’s willing to go to jail for ignoring his order. Fuck yeah.

This is both a very brave and a very smart move. What would happen if the judge actually did throw her in jail for this? How would he look? How would Nebraska look as a State? Hopefully this will be shot down at the Nebraska Supreme Court level. The judge’s order in this case is farcical and damaging, and the American public will react strongly if this heads to the US Supreme Court.

As Jessica observed in her original post:

And apparently, this is becoming a trend. What if this happens in all rape trials? For some women, it’s hard enough to name what happened to them as “rape” at all. If we’re banned from calling it ‘rape’ in the courtroom, when will we stop calling it ‘rape’ in our lives?

Having this shot down with finality will hopefully have a chilling effect on any other attempts to add one more layer of assault onto the shoulders of the victim. The judge is engaging in an abusive rhetorical practice that further marginalizes the victim and (ironically) prejudicially delegitimizes her case.

To stand up to this and fight is a rare act. Hero of the day indeed.

UPDATE: The Judge declared a mistrial due to the publicity surrounding the case:

Angela Rose with the Chicago-based rape victims advocacy group, Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, said the case has been in the public eye for some time.

“The judge’s actions caused this mistrial,” Rose said.

She objected to Cheuvront’s language restrictions, saying sexual assault victims often must find the courage to report rape in the face of friends and family who urge them to remain silent.

“When it finally gets into the courtroom, they’re silenced … it’s absolutely absurd,” Rose said.

The article ends with a real gem:

Safi’s lawyer Mock says the restrictions on language would help ensure Safi’s rights.

Mock has said the judge apparently agreed that the question of whether Safi sexually assaulted Bowen would be one for the jury to answer based only on evidence.

The judge agreed with the prosecution that the word rape was prejudicial.  The simple use of the word “rape” in testimony wouldn’t change that.

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5 Responses

  1. Hurrah to her. I hope this turns out well for her. Please follow up if you hear anything. I’ll likely miss it.

  2. This stuff is not as cut and dried as you’d like to think. Criminal justice is INSANE. I mean, when you are being tried by a jury of your peers (God deliver us all), just hearing someone say “rape” or “molestation” can totally seal your fate. It’s all well and good to get up in arms if there really was a rape, why shouldn’t the guy suffer and why shouldn’t she be allowed to say it.

    But don’t forget the Duke/Nifong scandal. I’m in law school – and we even had a former prosecutor talk to my Professional Responsibility class – sometimes these people are just pursuing cases to make headlines. You can find yourself in a world of hurt very very quickly. We ought to be exceptionally cautious in the way we administer criminal justice, or else things are going to quickly revert to the old stoning action that you wrote about from Iran, heh.

    I’m not saying she’s wrong to say rape in the courtroom, or that the judge is right to deny her the right to say it, or the opposite, just that there is a very, very complex issue here. Criminal law is pretty crazy, and I applaud anybody who can do it, or who likes to do it, because I sure couldn’t.

  3. Of course you’re right, but saying “it’s complex” doesn’t really move us anywhere. i mean, she’s accusing this man of rape…a specific crime defined by criminal codes in every state. Stating the accusation is hardly putting the cart before the horse. If two people are disputing the terms of a contract. The plaintiff states that his ex-partner “stole” property while the former partner claims to have “taken possession of the property” both get to cage the actual activity under dispute in whatever phrases they or their lawyers prefer. To punish the utterance of the accusation is patently absurd despite the complexities and the nuances of the legal system. The legal system as we understand is predicated on its being understood by “the reasonable man” after all.

  4. JimPanzee,
    I hope the mistrial doesn’t end her effort to find justice.

    Bret,
    Even in cases where there is no rape, we are talking about testimony.
    We have laws against perjury to handle instances where witnesses lie.
    A jury should be able to discern that a witness is relating their version
    of events, and make a determination on their own. Hearing a witness say “unwanted sexual activity” isn’t going to lift a great burden off the defence.

    We do have to be very careful about how we administer justice. But this isn’t a case of that. We don’t have these ridiculous language hoops for other crimes. Just one judge applying it to a specific crime: rape. A crime that has a history of being minimized and excused by society.

    JimPanzee,
    Excellent points! Especially on the use of language in a contract dispute, but also in terms of ‘being understood by “the reasonable man”‘.

  5. […] Word Rape During Trial Posted on September 12, 2007 by fitnessfortheoccasion The woman who fought back against the asshole judge who banned the word rape is taking it a step further and suing (Jessica, […]

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