Archive for July, 2013

27
Jul
13

The “R” Word

Today the Globe reports the story of Charles Gastel, a Joplin teacher charged with raping a young girl from Lamar.

Oh wait, I’m sorry–I mean, “engaged in sexual intercourse with.” I did a word search before the paywall locked me out, and there’s no appearance of the “R” word anywhere. Never mind that that’s what it’s called.
Newspaper articles about sexual assault are notorious for being poorly written in an unconscious (or deliberate) attempt to downplay the crime. The most common journalistic faux pas is the passive voice (which isn’t such a big problem in this article), but there’s also the avoidance of the word “rape”. This article gets really long-winded and awkward to avoid it. We have “engaged her in sexual intercourse”, which is not only TL;DR but inaccurate. An old man does not “engage in sexual intercourse” with a young girl. The word is rape. He rapes her.

And then there’s this bit:

…[the girl] and Gastel began engaging in sexual acts when she was 10, according to the affidavit.

Not only do we skirt around that icky “R” word, we also get to implicate the victim in her own assault! This 30+ year old man didn’t rape a 10 year-old; they “engaged in sexual acts” together, as equals! Go team!

Mr. Kennedy, I ask that you put more thought into these kinds of articles in the future. Research shows that the weak phrasing rampant in these articles do actual harm in the real world.




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