Raped or “Seduced”? How Language Helps Shape Our Response to Sexual Violence

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June 2013
  • Violence Against Women and Girls
  • National Judicial Education Program
  • Curriculum

The language we use to discuss sexual violence helps shape our response to it. Legal language is particularly influential in defining how we talk about sexual violence and in creating or reinforcing societal attitudes on the issue. This interactive module explores the research on the language we use to describe sexual violence, why that language isimportant, and how the use of accurate language by the judiciary has a far-reaching impacton societal understanding of and responses to sexual violence.

The two-hour module covers five topics:

  • Using the language of consensual acts to describe assaultive acts
  • Describing victims in terms that objectify them or blame them for the violence
  • Using linguistic avoidance to create an “invisible perpetrator” or minimize the violence
  • Judge-imposed restrictions on language used by witnesses ("word bans")
  • Recommendations for judges on their use of language in cases involving sexual violence

After learning about the current research, judges participate in interactive exercises in which they identify problematic language and rewrite case law excerpts and other texts using appropriate language.

Faculty Manual

PowerPoint Slides

The link above will download the PDF version of the presentation. To download the PowerPoint file, click here.