The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
November 25, 2011
A serious debate has ensued in the wake of the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up relating to the appropriate terminology to use when referring to the alleged rape of a young boy. Arthur S. Brisbane of The New York Times recently wrote about the problems faced by media when reporting on sexual assault.
“Victims’ advocates echo what the readers told me in their e-mails: language in news media reports -- and, for that matter, in the court system itself -- consistently underplays the brutality of sex crimes and misapplies terms that imply consent.”
The Los Angeles Times also struggled with the issue. The Times made an interesting observation about the charges brought against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. He was charged with "multiple counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of a child, indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor, as well as single counts of aggravated indecent assault and attempted indecent assault.” The charges did not specify rape, so the Times did not initially use that term.
Pennsylvania has sanitized the label affixed to one of the most egregious of criminal acts. With the exception of murder, the anal rape of a child is one of society’s most heinous crimes. Yet, Pennsylvania does not call it rape. The Crimes Code calls it involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (IDSI).
Both the rape and IDSI statutes include the element of force. To include the term “involuntary” in the statute’s title seems redundant. More to the point, a child does not have the capacity to consent to sex, thus any contact is involuntary. Deviate refers to an act that is “socially or morally unacceptable” a clumsy reference to the oral or anal nature of the involuntary penetration. The IDSI statute provides, “Sexual intercourse per os or per anus between human beings.” Intercourse seems to imply mutual participation in sexual activity.
Senator Kim Ward (D., Westmoreland) is proposing a measure that would create a task force to review and tweak child abuse and reporting laws.
The task force “would look at these issues, conduct hearings over a six-month period, and come back with recommendations for overall addressing what the changes should be, to look at who should report, what should be reported, and to whom,” said Scott Hollander, Executive Director of KidsVoice.
The legislature needs to act, whether through a task force or existing committee, the IDSI statute needs to change. The legislature should amend the title and definition of IDSI so that it reflects what it really is – rape. Such a change will insure that an adult male anally sodomizing a 10-year-old boy will, in fact, have the act referred to as rape, not 'having sex' or 'being forced to have sex’ or ‘engaging in involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.’
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