A Nebraska judge bans the word rape from his courtroom.
By Dahlia Lithwick
An accuser can be prohibited from using the word rape on the witness stand
Usually we leave it up to the linguists and philosophers to muse on the crazy relationship between words and their meanings. In the law, words—the important ones, at least—are defined narrowly, and judges, lawyers, and jurors are trusted to understand their meanings. It's precisely because language is so powerful in a courtroom that we treat it so reverently.
Yet a Nebraska district judge, Jeffre Cheuvront, suddenly finds himself in a war of words with attorneys on both sides of a sexual assault trial. More worrisome, he appears to be at war with language itself, and his paradoxical answer is to ban it: Last fall, Cheuvront granted a motion by defense attorneys barring the use of the words rape, sexual assault, victim, assailant, and sexual assault kit from the trial of Pamir Safi—accused of raping Tory Bowen in October 2004.