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Appeals Court Upholds Judge's Ban of the Word Rape

Appeals Court Upholds Judge's Ban of the Word Rape

An appeals court just let stand a judge's ban of the use of the words, "rape," and "rape kit," "assailant," and "victim" during a sexual assault trial. Three judges on the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the federal court didn't have jurisdiction in the case forcing the plaintiff, Tory Bowen, to continue her appeal still seeking justice.

During the original trial, the judge allowed the defendant's attorney to use the words, "sex" and "intercourse." The judge objected to the words like "rape" because the terms are value-laden, not legal terms, and could inflame the passions of a jury. The plaintiff therefore had to testify for 13 hours describing the event that happened to her as "sex." She said the ban in her opinion meant she had to lie on the witness stand. “The word ‘sex’ implies consent. I never once would describe (what happened) as sex.” She was afraid that the jury would think she had chosen to use the word.

The first trial ended in a hung jury.

Do you agree with the judge that words like rape are unfairly inflammatory? Do you think delaying justice over the parsing of a term makes the plaintiff have to relive the experience over and over?


Join The Conversation
Frank-y-Ava Frank-y-Ava 9 years
And using the words "sex" and "intercourse" makes it sound consensual. They continue to give breaks to defendants and criminals. Why don't they just come out and say, they would prefer to pretend rape and molestation doesn't happen. That's basically what there saying with this silly law.
thorswitch thorswitch 9 years
megmccoy, thanks for the info from a lawyerly perspective!
megnmac megnmac 9 years
In a murder trial, I would say 'then he shot her, he wanted to kill her, he murdered her.' In a molest trial, I would say, 'this is a man who likes to molest little girls.' Because the evidence will show that the guy did murder, did molest, did do those things. I would say (and have said), the Defendant RAPED the victim. I would never ever not ever say 'this innocent until proven guilty person may or may not have done something illegal, you decide.' He DID it, there is evidence and I will prove it, and I will always say so bluntly in court. snowbunny11 - The analogy you pose isn't real, in my state there is no crime 'rape' there is sexual assault. I'd never say he first degree murdered him, because that isn't common language. Just like I probably would never say he then had sexual conduct with a minor until the very end when I say to find him guilty of sexual conduct with a minor. Many different things can be sexual assault under my state laws. And in a trial, where the victim is saying 'and then I was raped' we would still have to go into how it happened. But that is a common word for a man having nonconsensual sex. It is not a technical legal word, and wouldn't be used as such. It needs to be said. Again, I understand the judges have concerns for defendant rights and fair trials, but this is an egregious overstep.
thorswitch thorswitch 9 years
Snowbunny - It's true that in a trial, part of the point, to a certain, extent is proving that what the prosecution says happened is exactly what did happen. They are, however, able to use words like "murder," "robbery," "assault," and (usually) "rape" while doing so. The defense then uses whichever terms they prefer in trying to prove that either (a) there was no crime or (b) if there was a crime, their defendant wasn't involved (and sometimes they try to do both at the same time, which ends up in a kind of "throw everything at the wall" effort hoping *something* will create that much-desired reasonable doubt.
thorswitch thorswitch 9 years
I heard about this case when it first made the news, and I'm as outraged now as I was then. I don't understand how "rape" isn't a legal term, since you usually hear about someone having been charged with X counts of Y-degree rape or something of that nature. If the jurisdiction this case is in doesn't use the word "rape" to describe what the defendant is charged with, do we know what the name of the actual charge against him is called. At the VERY least, the victim should be able to use *that* term! What makes me sick, though, is that this judge is trying to equate sex with rape, when rape truly has nothing to do with sex. It's about POWER and control, about possessing the victim and forcing her to your will. THAT's what the rapist gets off on (and why even men who have been physically or chemically castrated can still commit rape - even using, uh, shall we say "substitutes" for any missing or malfunctioning body parts - and still get off on it.) Even in cases of date rape, it usually occurs because the guy either feels he's entitled to something or he's assumed something was being offered, and when told "no," won't take that for an answer. He has to be in control, what the victim wants is of no relevance. Not only does this ruling need to be overturned, but the Judge needs to be removed from the bench. Yes, defendants need to be given fair trials - you'll get no argument from me on that - but so do the victims. I think cine-lover probably put it best: If she did not think it was rape then she would not have pressed charges. There for she sees it as rape. The defendant can in turn call it sex. Then it is for the JURY to decide. That is what the JURY is for.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
Wait, maybe the point is that it was a rape trial to prove that she had been raped? I couldn't tell from the article. I am pretty sure in a murder trial, if the prosecution is trying prove that the victim was murdered (first degree for example) they can't just say, "then he first-degree murdered her," since that is what you are trying to prove. I think they would have to say, "then he shot her." Here I can see why perhaps the idea is that it should be phrased, "then he engaged in non-consensual sex with her," instead of "raped," her. But that is kind of pointless since non-consensual sex=rape anyway!
Matdredalia Matdredalia 9 years
I'm sorry but a woman who is raped has a right to say so on the stand. You're not being charged with "Sex", just as if you're on trial for murder, you're not being charged with "Urging Someone to Die". Frankly, once again, this proves just how screwed up rape trials are and just how far women, and hell, even men who've been raped, have to go in this country. Once again, we punish the victim and defend the guilty. *sigh*
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
Thanks Lainetm...I hadn't had a chance to read the full article yet. Either way it's deplorable.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
The judge is "Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront...." He (and the defendant) are identified here:
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 9 years
That's truly disgusting. I wonder if the judge were a man or a woman. It doesn't really matter. I'm just curious.
Jillz1128 Jillz1128 9 years
I find this ruling incredibly offensive. For a woman who was raped to have to refer to that horrible violent act as sex is not appropriate at all!
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 9 years
That's so wrong. I feel really bad for her. "Sex," to me, is a consensual act - "rape" is NOT. To force her to call it "sex" really is forcing her to lie about it. Shame.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 9 years
I think there are too many cases where judicial bias affects the outcome of the case. Since this sounds like a jurisdictional problem, is it being redirected to the appropriate court for appeal? I wonder if this judge would force someone whose home had been burglarized to refer to it as "borrowing my stuff"?
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
That's completely terrible. "Sex" to me also implies consent. This judge took away the accuser's right to describe the assault the way she actually experienced it.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
I think that judge has a very strange idea of what sex is like.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
Oops! His name IS in the article, and she allowed her name to be used. Thank goodness it is Friday! ;)
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
The article said that she wanted her name out there. I think I would too! I'd be fighting that ruling tooth and nail!
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
Good point Jillness. My dad used to work as a defense attourney for the crazies and he had to get out of it because he really felt the victims are punished more than the criminals in cases like this and he didn't want any part of it.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
Isn't it also crazy that we know her name...but who is the accused??
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
Wow, I feel so bad for the victim. Not only to have to testify and relive that again and again, but to have to euphemize what happened. That judge was way out of line.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
cant they say "alleged rape"? or "violation"
Jillness Jillness 9 years
Question: Can't the terms "sexual assault" apply not only to rape, but to other acts as well? Like if a guy would knock a woman down and stick his fingers in her. It isn't rape, but it would be considered sexual assault, right? I think by denying her the ability to use rape, they are denying her the ability to accurately describe what happened. That it was more than an assault, it was actual forced intercourse. What is the technical legally acceptable term for rape? I don't feel sexual assault goes far enough.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
Well the article says that the ruling was upheld because "the federal court didn't have jurisdiction in the case" but I hope this goes further somehow and that this one looney judge doesn't set the precedent.
megnmac megnmac 9 years
It is common that judges would worry about the words used in a trial - I could never just call someone a liar, it is inflamatory.... but to stop someone who IS accusing another person of committing a crime from using a word that they believe best describes that crime is a little crazy. Also, I say 'victim' the whole trial, b/c that person IS the victim. If the jury disagrees, they say not guilty. She's saying he raped her - what could the word possibly be adding other than an ability to better and more accurately describe the event in her own words? It is like saying someone can't say 'he robbed me' just say he knocked me down and took my purse. There are legal terms and these are sometimes words that people use in ordinary life (robbed, molest, theft are technical, but also used in normal language) - but rape isn't. It isn't in the legal definitions the judge was giving the jury, he should have allowed her to say rape.
Kimpossible Kimpossible 9 years
Our system is s flawed and this is just another example of that. It sickens me sometimes.
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