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Lawmaker proposes relabeling rape victims as ‘accusers’

February 10, 2011 2 comments

Victim:

Someone who has been harmed, injured or killed as the result of a crime.

Crime:

An illegal activity or action.

A Georgia state lawmaker with a history of operating on the political fringe has filed a bill stripping the term “victim” from rape, stalking and domestic violence cases.

Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican from the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, filed the bill in November but it only recently came to public attention.

Franklin’s bill would eliminate the word “victim” from statutes dealing with stalking, rape, obscene telephone contact with a child and family violence and replace it with “accuser.”

It also strikes the word “victim” from statutes dealing with electronic pretrial monitoring, HIV testing of criminal defendants and pretrial discovery, the exchange of crucial information between attorneys prior to the start of a criminal trial.

It wasn’t clear why Franklin’s legislation includes only those specific laws, or whether it would affect how people who file complaints about other crimes, such as child molestation, assault or theft might be described.

Franklin did not return a telephone message or e-mail to his office on Monday.

The proposed change angered some who felt that Franklin meant the legislation as an attack on rape victims and on women, who comprise the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual assault.

“I am dismayed … angry … and shocked by your wacked out ideologies concerning VICTIMS of rape,” one commenter wrote on Franklin’s Facebook page.

Carolyn Fiddler, the communications director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, wrote on the organization’s website that the legislation diminishes rape victims by questioning whether what happened to them is even a crime.

“Burglary victims are still victims. Assault victims are still victims. Fraud victims are still victims,” she wrote. “But if you have the misfortune to suffer a rape, or if you are beaten by a domestic partner, or if you are stalked, Rep. Franklin doesn’t think you have been victimized.”

In an interview with CNN Monday, Fiddler said she would like to think that Franklin didn’t mean to diminish rape victims with the legislation. But she said the language displayed a “lack of empathy and awareness.”

There is some merit in the idea of neutralizing legal and courtroom language to help focus potential jurors on the facts of a case, instead of the emotions raised by issues of rape and similar offenses, said Russell Gabriel, director of the University of Georgia School of Law’s Criminal Defense Clinic.

Respectfully submitted via the CNN Wire Staff

 

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