Why the inverted commas?

From the Independent Online’s Crime and Courts section:

Man held for ‘rape’

June 09 2008 at 12:10PM

A 25-year-old man was arrested for “rape” on Monday in Katlehong, East Rand police said. Spokesperson Superintendent Mega Ndobe said the man allegedly raped a 9-year-old girl a week ago at the Mandela informal settlement.

“The victim’s mother noticed a discharge coming from the girl’s private parts, took her for medical examination and the doctor confirmed rape.”

Ndobe said charges were laid by the girl’s mother on Saturday.

The man was arrested after being positively identified by the girl, Ndobe said.

The man would appear in Germiston magistrate’s court on Tuesday, he said. – Sapa

What the hell are those inverted commas in the item title and first sentence meant to imply? There is medical confirmation that the girl was raped, the man has been identified, arrested and charged with the crime. There appears to be no doubt that a rape was committed.

If it’s meant to indicate that the accused is not yet found guilty, then it’s damned sloppy. There are better ways for a sub-editor to indicate that the perpetrator has not been decided/convicted. That’s what the word “alleged” is for.

If it’s meant to indicate that a 9 year old girl in a poverty environment might have been a consenting sex partner and therefore the charge of rape is questionable, shame on them. The ability to cozen or coerce a young child into compliance is not the same as willing consent.

Categories: language, law & order, media, violence


5 replies

  1. I have no idea about this source…not familiar.
    but i do know that the BBC has a habit of using quotations in headlines that may be similar. it’s a way of marking a specific claim or quotation made by a source.
    for instance, if a gov. minister announces that gas prices are going up in novemeber…
    the Beeb might headline
    “Gas prices set for ‘rise’ in November”
    It’s awkward in many ways, but i do see some utility in it over all. unfortunately, it can create an appearance of rape denial.

  2. The mainstream media is incompetent at best, downright evil at worst. If they do something that doesn’t shock and offend me everyday, it’s a goddamn miracle.
    (I’m not sure how mainstream this site really is, mind you, but it’s close enough)

  3. I dunno, rape seems kinda insufficient to describe the crime that occurred.


  1. Because rape isn’t rape if a 12yo ‘consents’ « In a strange land
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