The Associated Press just released an update to the AP Stylebook, which includes a note on privacy and sexual assault.
Do not identify juveniles (under 18) who are accused of crimes, even if other news media do so or police release names. Also, do not transmit images that would reveal their identity.
Do not identify, in text or through images, juveniles (under 18) who are witnesses to crimes.
Do not identify, in text or through images, persons who say they have been sexually assaulted, and use discretion in naming victims of other extremely severe abuse.
Is the Associated Press perpetuating social stigma over sexual assault by including this line?
I remember discussing this type of problem in communication law class last semester. A woman has been raped, and a suspect is brought into custody. Your editor tells you to write an article about it. Do you release the name of the suspect, and do you release the name of the victim?
Most of the class agreed not to release the victim’s name. Then our professor asked: “Would you release her name if she had simply been assaulted, or had her car stolen? Why is sexual assault different?”
I’m still not sure where I stand on this issue, but it’s interesting to see the Associated Press’s position on it.
For the record, I don’t own a paper-copy of the AP Stylebook, so I don’t know what it has traditionally said about identifying sexual assault victims.