Letter to the Editor: "A news story should not take away a victim's right to safety and privacy under any circumstances
Posted: Thu, Feb 7, 2019 4:26 PM
(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Joey Taylor, the Executive Director of Riverview Center in Dubuque):
Every 98 seconds someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. These brave survivors are then left not only to deal with the physical pain, but also may endure emotional trauma for the rest of their lives. Our goal, as a society, must be ensuring that the survivor of the assault feels supported and guided toward healing, providing access to resources for however long that healing may take.
How should our community protect survivors of sexual assault? It starts with making ethical decisions based on human kindness versus what freedom of the press might allow. In today's world of information- upon- demand and search engines, intimate details can be obtained in a key stroke and the survivors may be victimized, repeatedly, for years. What is written in news today, remains online forever.
The news media has a great moral obligation to help protect the anonymity of all survivors, with special attention being paid to child victims. Reporting on children, or any victim of a crime, should never put them at risk. decorahnews.com's decision to provide specific details (of the South Winneshiek assault) was in extremely poor taste. The light veil of protection this child may have had in a small community has now been lifted. On top of physical and emotional healing, the reporting of this information has now subjected this child to a lifetime of embarrassment, bullying and a much greater level of trauma.
For decorahnews.com to state, "the story comes from easily accessible public records" is a poor excuse for passing the information on to its readers. It was an attempt to drive readership at the expense of the victim.
decorahnews.com also claims, "The news media's job is to provide information, not hide information." This story would have been just as informational without providing details, such as location, that may easily identify a crime victim.
When a media outlet behaves in a manner that is sales driven versus human focused, it lends understanding as to why sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the United States. When a survivor's most personal information is shared in a such a public manner, it could inhibit future reporting of sexual violence. An assault is an extremely traumatic event and it is not easy for a survivor to come forward. Survivors already struggle to share their story in their own time and way. Discussing the event in such a prominent forum, once again, takes power from the survivor and adds more trauma to an already difficult situation.
A news story should not take away a victim's right to safety and privacy under any circumstances."
(decorahnews.com replies: We welcome the opportunity to give people a voice to their opinion. However, we deny Joey's Taylor's statement "it was an attempt to drive readership at the expense of the victim." Joey can't accurately make this statement because she never spoke with anyone at decorahnews.com before submitting her Letter to the Editor.)