Websites releasing information about accuser in Duke rape case

Soon after I was made aware of the Duke rape case, I received numerous e-mails, letters, and phone calls revealing the identity of the accuser. Some people have gone so far as to send me photos of the woman. Nearly everyone who provided me with such information asked me to post it on the site in the interest of fairness and justice.

Although I wouldn’t dream of posting such information, there are several popular websites that have revealed the accuser’s name, photo, and other information. Like the Kobe Bryant rape case, these people have argued that accusers deserve to have their identities held under the same public scrutiny as the alleged offended.

In recent years, the media taboo against revealing victims’ names is becoming less and less pervasive. Major news outlets, as well as cyber-journalists, have revealed the names of accusers in high profile case. Wendy McElroy provides an explanation for this position:

“Rape has become an exception because of the public shame attached to being sexually violated. Yet, today, the greater disgrace adheres to whoever is accused of sexual misconduct. The disgrace involves not merely shame but also the likely loss of marriages, friends, reputation, career and wealth. Yet the damage and shame inflicted on those who are merely accused does not prevent the media from naming them.

Debate over the propriety of identifying both parties is quickly followed by speculation over whether anonymity for only one side is even possible. Once half of the story becomes public, can the other half remain confidential? The Internet has ushered in an age of instant and omnipresent information. Nothing short of totalitarian censorship may be able to enforce anonymity for ‘victims’.”

While it may be true that complete anonymity is impossible in the current techonological moment, that doesn’t mean that this shouldn’t be our goal in rape cases. The reason that “rape shield” laws were proposed in the first place was to protect women from the sexist “Is she a hoe? Did she ask for it?” discourses that have been historically central to rape investigations.

Some argue that such questions are indispensable for certain types of cases, namely acquaintance rape, when issues of consent are more complex and nuanced. Even if this is true, such inquiry is unnecessary in this case, as this is not an alleged date rape. Rather, this seems like another excuse to blame the victim and deflect attention from the real criminals.

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