We are professionals who work with Orcas Island children and families in various ways. We believe the 11/25/19 article about child sexual abuse should not have printed details of specific criminal acts. We respect that in the past the Sounder has sought to cover issues of domestic violence and sexual assault with sensitivity to victims and a responsibility to educate the community of the broader issues. In this case, it was unnecessary to include the details of the criminal acts beyond the listing of criminal charges. Wide community exposure of these details will likely compromise the child victim’s recovery. Journalists are responsible to report news, and have strong guidelines for protecting the identity and confidentiality of victims of sexual assault. In a small community, these guidelines must go beyond excluding the victim name and specific identifying information. Professional journalists can and should implement guidelines with an extreme level of caution to reduce further victim traumatization, particularly when the victim is a child. Each detail should be considered with scrutiny: Is it necessary for the general public to know this specific detail? Does child victim protection warrant exclusion of this detail?
We ask that in the future the Sounder will consult with professionals in the field of sexual assault before printing specific details in articles of this nature, to more fully consider potential consequences in balance with a community’s right to information.
We hope that Sounder readers will NOT seek to determine the identity of the victim in this or any case, and will discourage others who try to do so.
Sandra L. Burt, Julie Gottman, Trillium Swanson, Hugh M. Grant, Kyle Freeman, Margie Sabine, Nancy Wrightsman, Meagan Gable, Emilie Gincig, Liz Doane, Krista Bouchey, Erin O’Dell
Jana Webb, Suzanne Olson, R.J. Myers, Dorothy Osborn