Monday, May 01, 2006

Identity of Sex Crime Victims

Bitty’s blog on the unfolding Duke dilemma, as he called it, has been making me think. I thought I remembered seeing a case study in our book about another high profile rape case- the one involving Kobe Bryant. So I looked it up, and sure enough... The case study deals mostly about Kobe fans leaking the alleged victim’s name, and the follow-up coverage and exposure of the girl’s identity by the mainstream media, in particular a sports talk show host named Tom Leykis.
The thing that I found interesting in reviewing the case was a statement made at the end by Geneva Overholser, an editor of a paper that won a Pulitzer for a series of stories it ran on “one woman’s path through the criminal justice system after her rape.” Ms. Overholser argued that withholding a victim’s name “reinforces the stigmatization that society puts on the rape victim” and that, “the responsible course for responsible media today is this: Treat the woman who charges rape as we would any other adult victim of crime. Name her, and deal with her respectfully. And leave the trial to the courtroom.”
I see a problem with this. I don’t think rape is an ordinary crime. Sexual crime is different because I think it hurts the victim in a way that is much more personal and emotional. This is not to say that victims of violence aren’t also emotionally hurt or psychologically strained, but I think that sexual crimes take it a step further. Also, the way sexual crimes are treated in court is different. The victim himself/herself is put on trial in a way that doesn’t happen to victim of a regular crime.
Because of the harm sexual crime does to victim and the way sexual crime cases are handled by our justice system, I think that public disclosure of identity should be the victims’ choice.

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