Reporting Sexual Abuse

The Chennai editions of both The Times of India (“Woman alleges sexual abuse by step-dad, uncle”)and The New Indian Express (“Sex Abuse Victim Seeks CoP’s Help”)on November 24, 2012 carry reports on on a victim of sexual abuse seeking help from the City Police Commissioner. The reports are very similar, both quote the victim and both change the victim’s name, ostensibly to protect her identity.  The sensitivity in reporting the crime is commendable, however, one thing struck me. For one, English newspaper reports often change the name of victims of sexual abuse, but rarely change the names of the alleged abuser, family members, area they hail from, school name, etc. When one takes all the facts available, finding the victim’s real identity is child’s play. As a journalist I understand than the more details one adds to the story, the more authentic and credible the report, but one wonders where we should draw the line. For instance, in the reports of this crime, both newspapers change the victim’s name, but they mention the name of her foster parents, where they live and who her alleged abusers are.

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