College paper defends naming rape victim

Editor Mary Polleys (credit: @mpolleys)

The Comment student newspaper at Bridgewater State University published a story earlier this month that named a rape victim who spoke to about 200 people at a “Take Back the Night” rally. The woman gave her name to the crowd, but still there are people on campus say the paper shouldn’t have identified her and should remove its story from the Comment’s site.

Editor Mary Polleys says university president Dana Mohler-Faria told her that it was “unconscionable” that she wouldn’t scrub the article, and claims he threatened to close the paper. “There’s no question he was trying to intimidate us.” (A university spokesman denies that and tells the Boston Globe: “The paper has the right to print what it wants. But when there are questions of the validity of facts and when there are questions of the rights to privacy, that deserves a conversation.”

The paper stated its position in an editorial this week:

The Comment doesn’t publish the names of sex crime victims without their consent. But there is implied consent when someone speaks in a public forum, and, as many of the letter writers point out, the whole meaning of the rally was to encourage victims of sexual assault to speak up and not live in shame. Any information included in the article that Sullivan did not share at the rally was easily found by searching her name and looking at her publicly-accessible social media profiles. This isn’t an invasion of privacy. It’s simple fact checking and good journalism.

* Paper’s naming of rape victim leads to dispute at university (Boston Globe)
* Rape victim says Comment story went too far (The Enterprise)
* Rape victim takes back the night (The Comment)
* Editorial: Break the silence (The Comment)
* Free speech advocate backs The Comment (The Comment)
* Letter #1 Scroll down to read letters about the controversy (The Comment)