Semantic Gymnastics

Updated: Sep 19


3-minute read

Anyone falsely accused of a sexual crime soon learns new twists on words, phrases and idioms he thought he already knew. Here are examples of creative interpretations used or implied by “investigators”, lawyers, judges, columnists, politicians...and sometimes just the general public:

Acquit

To contribute to the failure of a judicial system by allowing another offender to walk free. In trials of sexual offenders, this most often happens when a jury repudiates the doctrine of rape myths. Acquittals also suppress KPIs. See convict.


Alcohol

Intoxicant that can lower inhibitions in both sexes and legal responsibility in one.

Chicken and egg

Age-old dilemma about cause and effect or simple chronology. Especially relevant in those sexual accusations involving a complainant's mental health. The trauma of sexual crime can be considered the reason for mental illness. However, pre-existing mental illness cannot be considered sufficient reason to doubt a sexual accusation.


Complainant

Victim.

Convict

To contribute to the success of a judicial system by finding a defendant guilty. See acquit. Convictions also help boost KPIs.

Defend

In a legal context, to receive payment for perpetuating the lie that a defendant is different from a perpetrator. See prosecute.

Defendant

Offender/Perpetrator/Pervert

Detective

Paid public servant responsible for building cases (see investigate), establishing rapport with complainants and treating suspects as targets.


Disclosure

(US: discovery) Legal requirement for the prosecution to reveal to the defence any information that may permit a perpetrator to go scot-free. Increasingly ignored.

Discrepancy

Any statement in a complainant's testimony that apparently defies logic, is contradictory, contravenes provable facts of time and place or otherwise offends against credibility. Discrepancies are caused by trauma and cannot discredit a complainant's truth (see trauma and my truth). A discrepancy may be what was once called an untruth or even a lie, but those terms are now confined to inconsistencies in the accused's testimony.


Due process/presumption of innocence

Archaic patriarchal contrivance that provides a legal shield for offenders. Increasingly neglected in enlightened and progressive justice systems.


False memory

Term used by the defence and by some "scientists" on their payroll to discredit recollections of devastating childhood abuse. More properly defined as recovered memory.


Investigate

To build a case by working on behalf of a complainant, believing and enhancing his/her accusations, honing his/her testimony and filing exculpatory evidence safely in a circular tray.

Jekyll and Hyde

Sexual offender who conceals his criminal debauchery under a cloak of respectability. This phrase may be used by a prosecutor during trial or by a judge at sentencing.

KPI

Key performance indicator; usually in the plural. A criterion used as evidence that an organisation is achieving measurable goals. A police district is likely to include convictions for sexual offences in its KPIs, though not convictions for false allegations.

Liars, damned liars and statisticians

Famous quote used to discredit lies about the number of false sexual allegations.

Memory test

Phrase used exclusively in the negative to confirm an accuser is telling a big truth even if he/she misremembers details (see discrepancy). For example, a prosecutor or judge may say, “A trial isn't a memory test.” Never applied to defendants, for whom a trial is of course many things, including a memory test.

My truth

Comforting belief.

Non-recent

(UK) Replaces historical to refer to sexual offences from decades ago. Historical implied that the offence occurred so far in the past that it's no longer significant, or even that it may not have occurred.

Prosecute

To enhance the success of the judicial system by striving for convictions. See defend.

Ring of truth

Verisimilitude. Used by the prosecution at trial to exhort the jury to believe the accuser and to convict, in the absence of factual evidence.

Second rape

(For an accuser) To be asked questions designed to elicit the truth.

Survivor

See accuser.

Suspect

Archaic term for perpetrator or offender.

Tip of the iceberg

Idiom used to show that even if courts convicted ten times the number of actual offenders, it would never be enough.

Trauma

Mental suffering of varying intensity and duration, as specified by an accuser or by an accuser's friend or counsellor. Trauma has a profound effect on the consistency of the accuser's testimony (see discrepancy). Suspects are immune from trauma.

Vulnerability

Psychological state that frees a complainant from legal responsibility for destroying a pervert's life. Diagnosis is made by those experts in mental health, the police. It is almost always automatic, but in more complex cases follows a consultation that may take as long as a minute.

Where there's smoke there's fire

Popular idiom confirming that an allegation alone is always sufficient.

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