Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Identifying Parents Who Rape Their Children

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Identifying Parents Who Rape Their Children

Article excerpt

AN OVERWHELMING community response in favor of naming parental rapists in stories was a major factor in the Spokane Spokesman-Review changing its policy on the issue.

Chris Peck, managing editor of the newspaper, recently planted the seed for the switch when he used his column to ask for readers' viewpoints on the matter.

A local man had been convicted of raping his four daughters, aged 4 to 8, while their mother videotaped the abuses.

The rapist was not named in the Spokesman-Review story when he was found guilty in a nonjury trial, in keeping with the paper's written ethics policy of not identifying such criminals because doing so would identify their victims. Other rapists routinely are identified in the Spokesman-Review.

After the verdict, Peck noted in his column that the man was scheduled to be sentenced soon and added, "Frankly, we need your help to make the decision on whether the name should be published.

"Every day, the press is hung out to dry for being insensitive and callous. Yet every day, taxpayers and the lawabiding rely on us to monitor the judicial process .... So we are caught trying to navigate a slippery path.

"Do we publish the name of a fourtime rapist because the community expects it or do we not publish the name to add a bit of protection to the victims because the community expects that?"

Peck asked for reader opinions, listing phone numbers to call.

The response favored name disclosure by a 2-1 margin.

"The calls overloaded our lines," Peck said. "We got 500 in a three-day period. We also got a valuable lesson in taking the public's temperature?"

The managing editor said women respondents outnumbered men by a 6040 margin. Dozens of women suggested that the crime of rape flourishes because it is kept more secret than other criminal acts, he noted.

There also were scores of letters on the subject, Peck said. …

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