A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Dec 3, 2014

stop calling rape victims "accusers"

Courtesy Google Images
The media needs to stop calling victims of rape and sexual assault "accusers''. It implies that there is no victim, but rather a shrill, angry, mean accuser who is victimizing the rapist. It is not done with any other crime. If you are robbed, killed, kidnapped or pick pocketed - you are a victim. Why is a rape victim an accuser? Why is the universally accepted legal language changed? In fact, it is the people of a state that accuses the defendant on behalf of the victim.

This perversion of language and inversion of sympathy began with the allegation that Kobe Bryant raped a woman. Somehow, either the media on its own or in response to pressure from his legal and/or public relations team, began to refer to the woman as the "accuser" to soften the charge and to subliminally suggest that Bryant was the real victim. (That case was settled,) Now again, the 13 or so women alleging rape and sexual misconduct against another celebrity, Bill Cosby, are being referred to as "accusers".

It is the way of our world that when dealing with bullies, batterers and big shots there is an effort to blame the injured party for somehow causing the violence.  I am used to and expect abusers of all sorts to deflect blame, ascribe unscrupulous motives for the charges and exercise their right to defend themselves. I am also used to dealing with those who cannot or are afraid to report a crime. (By the way, should the allegations be false or part of an attempt to extort, the original victim and perpetrator change places!)

It is always difficult for those with less power or those in the minority to be treated fairly by those trying to retain their power and majority status. Trying to equalize the playing field so victims of domestic violence, animals and other vulnerable classes have the ability to fight back is part of what we do here at spcaLA. We try to be the secret weapon that forces a fair fight between unequal players.

I absolutely find it appalling that when it involves sexual abuse crimes, the terminology used by the media  magically transforms the victim into the aggressor, thereby putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the criminal,  making it that much harder for a victim to come forward and for those of us trying to force the fair fight.

Is this terminology shift by the media a result of bowing to exogenous pressures? Is it a manifestation of a culture of woman hating, celebrity loving, misguided political correctness, or a conspiratorial inchoate attempt to sway the jury pool and the arbiters of public opinion?

Is the media naive or complicit? 

Just stop it!

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