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Media and Rape Victims

Last week's abduction of two teenage girls in California brought to light a common practice among journalists: No reporting of a rape victim's name.

But a peculiar thing happened in this case. The names and pictures of the girls had already been widely distributed – to help find them – when, after their rescue, a sheriff said they had been raped during the abduction.

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"What to do now?" asked many journalists. Would the standard hold of not stigmatizing a victim?

Many media stuck to their rule and didn't refer to the girls by name, which this newspaper applauds, based on its own objective, which is "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind."

But the media could use this case to ask if such self-restraint should be extended, say, by avoiding personal descriptions that have nothing to do with a person's actions, or more carefully judging how the bright lights of publicity might harm the innocent.

Truth-seeking and self-restraint are not incompatible for journalists.


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