Editorial: Sexual assault in the media

In today’s issue of The Campus, a story appeared regarding two recent hearings that involved an Allegheny student accused of sexual assault and two women who requested protection from violence orders against the individual. In the story, none of the witnesses’ nor the alleged survivors’ names appears, but the name of the accused student does.

This was a conscious decision made by our editorial board.

In terms of legality, a newspaper has every right to publish every name, as all appeared in court and their names are listed in court documents which are a matter of public record. These documents are accessible to anyone. Therefore, our decision was purely an ethical one.

Most news organizations, as a general rule, do not print the names of rape or sexual assault survivors. This is meant to protect survivors from ridicule and further victimization. We have upheld this practice in the past and saw no reason to change our policies in this case.

In the case of the witnesses who were called to testify at the hearings, we at The Campus felt it important to omit their names as well, since identifying the friends of the survivors might inadvertently disclose the identity of the survivors.

The one name which we chose to include was that of the student who has been accused. Once again, his name is listed in court records which are accessible to any member of the public, so we therefore had no legal requirements to omit the name. We felt that it was important for students at Allegheny to be aware of the accusations that have been leveled against someone they may live in close proximity to.

While we understand the student has not been found guilty of any crime or even charged, but in a court of law, a judge saw fit to implement a three year protection order. This case cannot, therefore, be dismissed as entirely without basis.

We recognize that as a result of our reporting, the accused student may face negative repercussions. For this reason, especially since charges have not been officially filed, we kept his name out of the lead of the article and made it clear that he has not been charged with anything and is therefore innocent until proven guilty.

We felt the community needed to be informed of these events and that there was no way to properly do this without including the name of the accused student. We do not wish to harm someone without need, if they are innocent, but at times we must consider the greater good.