Judicial Language Project
State of California v. Scott, 2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 9558 (Cal. App. 6 Dist.) (October 20, 2004)
(Case summary by Marisa Dodlinger, law student )
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- Nature of the Case: Child Sexual Abuse
- Problematic Language: Use of the word "climax" sexualizes and eroticizes the abuse of a child
- Explanation of Problem: The language used is problematic, because the word "climax" sexualizes and eroticizes the abuse of a child. The dictionary defines climax as the equivalent of "orgasm": "The peak of sexual excitement, characterized by strong feelings of pleasure ...." American Heritage Dictionary, (2000 ed.). The definition of climax includes both objective information and a subjective tone of eroticism and pleasure, but no connotation of harm. Use of erotic language and terms that convey sexual pleasure imply that a consensual or pleasant sexual encounter occurred, rather than a harmful criminal act.
- Suggested Alternatives: The Court should refrain from using any words that have underlying themes of eroticism and sensuality when describing the sexual abuse of a child. The Court should keep the explanation as clinical as possible. For example, instead of using the word "climax," the Court could have used the word "ejaculation." The definition of the word ejaculation is "the expulsion of seminal fluid from the urethra of the penis during orgasm." By using objective, scientific terms the Court avoids implying that violent activity is consensual, erotic or pleasurable.