Fixed It: Leifer is not accused of “sex”

Malka Leifer has been in Israel since she was charged with 74 offences related to child rape and sexual abuse. SBS News reported that a panel of psychiatrists found she is fit to face her extradition trial. 

Leifer has not yet been tried and is entitled to the presumption of innocence. Only a court can determine whether she is guilty or not guilty. This commentary is not speculating on her guilt or innocence, it is specifically and only about how these types of crimes are reported in the media.

The headline above the article describes her as “child sex accused”. As regular followers of Fixed It will know, the term “child sex” is common in reporting of child rape and sexual abuse.

Children cannot have “sex”. Sex requires consent and children cannot give consent, so it’s not “sex”. Sex is a consensual act. If we call abuse “sex” we’re implying that violence only the perpetrator could choose to commit is the same as sex adults can choose to have with each other. It isn’t.

Continually reporting rape or sexual abuse of children as “child sex” also diminishes public understanding of the extent and effect of such abuse. One of the many issues this creates is problems at trial. For example, a study conducted for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found juries who have a better understanding of child sexual abuse are less likely to make mistakes in their assessment of evidence given in court.

Raping children is a horrific concept, we should feel revulsion at the very idea. But we can’t protect children or deter predators by diminishing the reality of rape. And we further damage survivors with the implication that the crimes committed against them are anything less than a horrific and violent crime.

Words matter. Stop calling rape and sexual abuse what it isn’t and start calling it what it is.

FixedIt is an ongoing project to push back against the media’s constant erasure of violent men and blaming of innocent victims. If you would like to help fund it – even $5 a month makes a big difference – please consider becoming a Patron


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