Harmful graphic details in Moller article

by Alison Sanders

Orcas Island

I’m writing as community member, mother and former advocate for sexual assault victims and survivors of child sexual assault to urge you to redact the graphic details in the article written about Chris Moller.

Let me be clear, light should be shed on this topic, and calling out the perpetrator by name is doing just that. But sharing graphic details about horrific childhood experiences on a prominent public forum is not. It is akin to outing a gay teen, and can only be described as unethical. The amount of detail shared was harmful to the survivor; amplifying someone’s trauma this way positions them to be re-victimized every time the article is read.

You’ve been told this before. In 2019, I sent a remarkably similar letter (along with countless other advocates and therapists) after you printed a remarkably similar article.

More should be done from all positions of power in communities to bring awareness to this topic, and the Islands’ Sounder is in a unique position to do so. “Do No Harm” should be the guiding ethical principle in a small community. The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)—the country’s largest sexual assault prevention network—has a training for journalists specifically on how to ethically cover sexual assault.

Instead of shedding light on atrocities that happen within our community—especially child sexual assault—what this article has done is perpetuate a cycle of violence by incentivizing survivors to stay quiet (and certainly to not press charges) for fear details of their case might be published for the entire community to read. Articles with this kind of graphic detail follow people around forever and can be found by anyone for the rest of their lives: by potential employers, future spouses, future children’s classmates.

Others are also impacted by things like: 1. secondary trauma 2. using the term “child pornography” rather than “child sexual abuse material” 3. the potential for copycats inspired by graphic details. I hope these themes will be covered in future articles. The Sounder could be partnering with SAFE San Juans to write a series of articles on sexual assault prevention. Topics could include grooming, how to interview babysitters and caregivers, and child sexual abuse material. These are sustainable ways to inform community members about child sexual assault without repeatedly harming child survivors.

If you or someone you know is in need of help or you suspect someone is being abused contact SAFE San Juans, SJ 360-378-2345, OR 360-376-1234, LZ 360-468-4567.