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Editor’s Decision Doesn’t End Issue of Naming Rape Victims

January 25, 1993

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) _ A woman identified by a college newspaper after she accused a man of raping her took little comfort in the new editor’s decision to stop printing the names of rape victims.

″The policy can still change on a semester-to-semester basis,″ the woman said. ″If a woman is raped and she’s about to call the police, will she have to take time to stop and think, ’Who is The Parthenon editor this semester?‴

She reported her rape to Huntington city police in September, and Marshall University’s student newspaper, The Parthenon, printed her name under a policy adopted last fall.

Most news organizations, including The Associated Press, withhold alleged victims’ names in rape cases out of privacy concerns.

Last week, Parthenon Editor Greg Collard overruled the editorial board and reversed the policy for the spring semester.

″This (controversy) would have been a headline every day,″ Collard said. ″I don’t think that would be in the newspaper’s best interest.″

Kevin Melrose, the editor last semester, had said the identification policy was designed to be fair to both accused and accuser, and to help remove the stigma associated with rape.

The policy sparked protest when the editorial board instituted it. Opponents said publishing the names would deter reporting of sex crimes.

″I’m relieved for the young women out there who would be spared the indignity of having their names in print,″ Marshall President J. Wade Gilley said in lauding Collard’s decision.

Donnalee Cockrille, director of Marshall’s Women’s Center, said she expects the issue to resurface each semester when a new editor takes charge.

″Before, we could always assure (victims) that their name would not appear in the media,″ Cockrille said. ″Now, we can’t.″

Harold C. Shaver, director of the Marshall journalism school, also believes the issue is far from dead. He said courts have upheld the news media’s right to publish rape victims’ names.

″All we can do is give advice. It’s still their decision,″ Shaver said of the student editors.

Sgt. Alan Meek, a spokesman for the Huntington Police Department, said unless Collard’s decision is made permanent, the issue will hamper police attempts to investigate sexual assaults.

″If it causes a problem for the victim, then it causes a problem for us,″ Meek said. ″It makes the victim uncomfortable and it makes them reluctant to come forward. If one person refrains from reporting a rape as a result of this, then it’s a tragedy.″

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