“Alleged” Victims

The horrible story about the former Penn State coach has reminded me of something that bothers me: the term “alleged victim”.

I don’t think that I have ever heard this term applied at any time other than when a sex-related crime is under discussion. If a convenience store is held up, the store clerk is referred to as a victim, not an “alleged” victim.

If a rape is discussed, you will without question hear reference to the “alleged” victim. I know that the definition of the word allege can be used this way, but when it is used only for victims of sex crimes, I believe that it casts doubt about whether the crime actually took place.

I know that news people feel they have to use “alleged” when discussing an actual or accused perpetrator.

News people, let’s stick with “victim” when sex crimes are discussed. How about it?

One Response to ““Alleged” Victims”

  1. Tom Says:

    I’ve seen it used frequently this way when discussing sex crimes in which the evidence is limited to “he said/she said” with no physical evidence. I’ve never hear it said where there were witness who detained the perp at the scene or when there was DNA evidence along with physical harm. I have heard it used for data rape situations, which are invariably he said/she said. I’ve also heard it applied to the supposed victim of unproven swindles. The key seems to be, for legitimate use, that the crime isn’t proven to have occured.

    Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a better word in English for a victim whose status is not legally established. “Complainant” works, but is still missing part of the meaning. “Accuser” works well for some situations. “Alleged victim” is simply an inadequate choice that is aggravated by people’s ignorance of the language.

    On the other end of the scale, I’ve heard several times that an “alleged rapist who was convicted today of the crime will appealing his conviction.”

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