Post-Penetration Rape and the Decontextualization of Witness Testimony

Susan Ehrlich

in Legal-Lay Communication

Published in print August 2013 | ISBN: 9780199746842
Published online September 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199345052 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics

Post-Penetration Rape and the Decontextualization of Witness Testimony

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In this chapter, Susan Ehrlich examines the various phases of decontextualization that a lay-person’s testimony undergoes as it moves through the legal system first into trial and then into appellate decisions. Analyzing trial talk from a recent American ‘post-penetration’ rape case – Maouloud Baby v. State of Marlyand – she argues that what the judiciary construed as initial consent on the part of the complainant was in fact a strategy of resistance. The one ‘yes’ that the complainant reports uttering is lifted out of an interactional context characterized by multiple instances of the complainant saying ‘no’ to the defendant and his friend. The paper demonstrates how, as a layperson’s testimony is recontextualized and transformed into legal categories, a very large gap develops between events as they are recounted in the trial and the legal principles that are at issue in the judicial decisions.

Keywords: Recontextualization; entextualization; decontextualization; post-penetration rape; trial talk; lay testimony; judicial decisions; recontextualization; Maouloud Baby; consent

Chapter.  7776 words. 

Subjects: Sociolinguistics

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