Media awareness in rape cases: Does it help or hurt?

Maureen, a victim of sexual assault (date rape) whom you worked with last week as part of your internship as a victim witness assistant, was approached by the local media seeking an interview about the crime she alleges, and she wants you to tell whether she should tell her story to the press or not.

According to Maureen, who is a college student, she drank heavily on a Friday night at a local bar. Not wanting to drive home, she accepted a ride from a man she met at the bar who she trusted at the time. The man did not take her home, however; instead, he drove her to a remote location. Maureen explains that because she was attracted to him, she did not mind what seemed to be a romantic drive. At one point, the man parked the car and kissed her. Maureen explained that she kissed him back when he kissed her, but when he wanted to go further, she said no. He overpowered her and forced sexual intercourse. After that, he kicked Maureen out of the car and drove away. In the morning Maureen found her way to a pay phone and called the police to report the rape. Maureen was taken to the hospital and examined; during the exam, DNA evidence was collected that supports her allegations.

The prosecutor, Mary, has indicated that she will follow office policy and not prosecute the case because Maureen (the victim) had been drinking. Maureen has called your office, and as the victim advocate in the state’s attorney’s office, she wants your advice regarding whether she should talk to the reporters or not. It is the media’s policy, because of state law, not to publish identifying information about rape cases – in fact, the press can only identify the victim if he or she consents to being identified.

Discuss what advice you think should be given to Maureen and why it should be given. In your advice, be sure to include the benefits and dangers of sharing her story with the media. Be sure to address the ways in which the victim could be impacted negatively, both socially and emotionally. In addition, address what types of psychological reactions are associated with rape. Explain which advocacy group you might recommend for her to contact to find an advocate who might either speak on her behalf or attend the meeting with the press along with her if she chooses. Conclude your comments by discussing what you could do to help change the policy in the office of not prosecuting these cases.


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