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Publication of the Name of a Sexual Assault Victim: The Collision of Privacy and Freedom of the Press

NCJ Number
Criminal Law Bulletin Volume: 31 Issue: 5 Dated: (September-October 1995) Pages: 379-399
C M Bast
Date Published
21 pages
In March 1991, William Kennedy Smith allegedly raped a woman at the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach, Florida; when a supermarket tabloid published the victim's name, the State attorney filed two misdemeanor charges against the Globe, claiming the tabloid violated a Florida statute that makes publishing a sexual assault victim's name a second-degree misdemeanor.
The case illustrates a conflict between the right of privacy and freedom of the press. Statutes in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin prohibit publishing a rape victim's name, although U.S. Supreme Court Decisions have held that freedom of the press outweighs privacy interests. State courts have also decided cases concerning conflict between the right of privacy and freedom of the press. Several cases have involved statutes that either prohibit identifying a sexual assault victim or allow the court to order that victim and perpetrator names be suppressed. State courts have invariably sided with the press and have refused to hold media defendants liable for damages for invasion of privacy. Statutes prohibiting the identification of sexual assault victims, applicable U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and State court cases are reviewed, and the constitutionality of such statutes is analyzed. 77 footnotes