It Depends on the Meaning of 'Rape'

From the files of the “inmates-are-running-the-asylum” department comes a straightforward, easy to understand example of what is wrong with the American justice system. Tory Bowen, a 24-year-old Lincoln, Nebraska, woman, has alleged that Pamir Safi, a 33-year-old Army reservist, raped her. Of course, Safi alleges that what occurred between the two was, in fact, consensual sex. Considering his tortured ruling, the judge in the case apparently agrees, even before any testimony is given.

In a bizarre case of prior restraint, Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront has banned certain words and phrases from the trial on the grounds that they could be prejudicial to the defendant. Those terms include “rape,” “assailant,” “victim,” “sexual assault,” and “sexual assault kit.” The judge did not indicate what words are supposed to be left for the prosecutor to put on his case.

According to recent press reports, Judge Cheuvront had to declare a mistrial during jury selection due to what he considers excessive pretrial publicity. He contends that protests and other publicity surrounding the case would make it too difficult for jurors to ignore everything they heard before the trial. What did he expect?

Perhaps if I had gone to law school this would all be clear to me, but having majored in English rather than legalese, I have to ask myself how a “victim” can go into court and allege that she was “raped” or “sexually assaulted” by an “assailant” without the use of those terms? According to Judge Cheuvront, the word “sex” is to be substituted for the word “rape.” No, really. I’m not kidding. One can only assume that the prosecution would then have to refer to the “assailant” and the “victim” as “sexual partners.” Call me crazy but that seems to make the defendant’s case for him. Even Bill Clinton would be impressed with those legal verbal gymnastics. One can only imagine what term would have to be employed to describe a “sexual assault kit.” Consensual sex follow-up exam, perhaps.

All this led me to wonder how this kind of brilliant legal thinking might be applied to other crimes: “Your honor, this woman may have been a participant in the shooting, as was the defendant, but she had to visit the hospital after the encounter.”

“Objection! Your honor, the district attorney is implying actions not admissible as evidence, thereby tainting the jury’s opinion of my client.”

“Sustained. The prosecution will comply with this court’s order regarding inflammatory language.”

Or how about a case of armed robbery? “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this woman was indeed involved with the defendant when the money was removed. They were both there at the time, and there was a firearm present, but when the meeting ended my client was not happy about the outcome.”


Our society has become obsessed with the rights of criminals. From the murderers, rapists and drug dealers on our streets to the terrorists who walk among us, our legal system is contorted out of all semblance of fairness in a vain attempt to protect the rights of the accused. There are, indeed, cases like those of the Duke University La Crosse players who were unfairly prosecuted (even persecuted) by an overzealous district attorney. But as soft-headed, left-wing judges continue to conspire with ACLU types to undermine the rights of victims, our justice system becomes a mockery. When language is strangled and free expression is limited, especially in the defense of a victim’s rights, justice is not served.

This judge’s ruling is absurd. How could any prosecutor ever effectively do his or her job in the face of such restrictions? How does one put on a vigorous prosecution without the vocabulary necessary to make one’s case? When such ridiculous, arbitrary orders are handed down from the bench, the victim is not the only one being raped.