Added: October 25, 2008 – Last updated: October 3, 2015


Authors: Janet Bavelas and Linda Coates

Title: Is it Sex or Assault?

Subtitle: Erotic Versus Violent Language in Sexual Assault Trial Judgments

Journal: Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless

Volume: 10

Issue: 1

Year: January 2001

Pages: 29-40

ISSN: 1053-0789 – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1573-658X – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | American History: Canadian History | Prosecution: Trials



* Janet Bavelas' Website (Free Access)

* SpringerLink (Restricted Access)



Janet Bavelas, Department of Psychology, University of Victoria

Linda Coates, Department of Psychology, Okanagan College

Abstract: »This research examined the language used to describe sexual offenses in 75 British Columbia trial judgments. Since 1983 nonconsensual sexual contact is legally termed as "sexual assault" in Canada, so we tested whether the language in the judgments depicted sexual activity or assault. The most frequent characterization was in sexual (erotic or affectionate) language, which strongly implies mutuality and consent, whereas language depicting force, violence, or unilateral action was much less common--regardless of guilt or innocence, the nature of the charge, and the age of the complainant. We propose that sexualized descriptions minimize the inherent violence of sexual assaults and hide the survivors' experience.« (Source: Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless)


  Introduction (p. 29)
  Unilateral vs. Mutual Acts (p. 30)
  Discourse Analysis of Trial Judgments (p. 32)
    Database (p. 32)
    Analysis (p. 33)
  Results (p. 35)
    Effect of Legal Parameters on Language (p. 35)
    The Effect of Characteristics of the Complainant and Accused (p. 38)
  Discussion (p. 38)
  Acknowledgments (p. 39)
  References (p. 39)