Language Matters: How to Talk About Sex Crimes

If you haven’t heard the news about former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, go here for a complete list of the allegations against him.

In short, the former coach is being indicted for molesting eight boys as young as ten years old.

The language necessary to discuss a story like this is graphic, and that language, along with the heinous nature of the alleged crimes, can make people understandably uncomfortable.

However, as a new article at The Crime Report describes, using the wrong words in a story like this skews our view of what happened and encourages victim-blaming.

Phrases like “engaged in,” “oral sex,” and “sexual activity” are vague and imply that the victim collaborated in the incidents. ¬†Language like this is also connected to everyday sexual activities that, when between consenting adults, are actually pleasurable.

Contrast those phrases with words like “raped” and “forced,” which more clearly describe the acts as violent crimes perpetrated by one individual on another.

Vague or erotic language can influence our ideas and opinions about cases like these in ways that we don’t even realize, leading us to place less responsibility on the offender or think that the crime is less serious than it is.

Where do you think the balance lies between language that reports a story truthfully and language that is deliberately graphic or shocking?

Study the vocab words in this post in VocabNetwork’s Sex Crimes: blog LM studylist!

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