Who names alleged rape victims?

Thursday 23 August 2012

Since Gavin Esler and I challenged him for naming one of Julian Assange’s alleged victims on BBC2’s Newsnight on Monday evening, Craig Murray has repeatedly claimed two things: that the woman’s name is all over the internet, and that she revealed it herself in the first place.

The first of these assertions is true. That doesn’t mean Murray was right to repeat the woman’s name on live TV, and it’s worth pointing out that he would have broken the law
if the alleged assault had taken place in this country. The fact that both Assange’s accusers have been named on blogs and social networking sites has produced a torrent of misogynist abuse, including the use of terms such as ‘feminazi’ and ‘twisted, man-hating bitch’.

Murray hasn’t produced evidence for his second assertion, that the woman he named twice on Newsnight outed herself. What I do know is this: she gave an anonymous interview to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet on 21 August 2010, responding among other things to the accusation that Assange had been ‘set up’. The interview appeared, without revealing her name, the following day (22 August 2010).

I have found the following headline, which appeared on a website the next day (23 August 2010): ‘Newzglobe confirms [name redacted] as one of the women that made the rape allegations against Assange’. The report continued: ‘The web site newzglobe.com published an article in Swedish today confirming [name redacted] as one of the women who accused Assange for rape’.

This is a very different scenario from Murray’s claim that the woman named herself. But it is similar to what happened to the woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape in a hotel room in New York. It’s often claimed that she made her own name public, but she did so only after she had been widely named in the French press.

I believe that victims of alleged rapes and sexual assaults are entitled to have their identities protected by the law. In both cases I’ve mentioned, the alleged victims have been slandered and bullied on the internet in a way which is demeaning to them, and may deter other women from reporting serious crimes.

I don’t need to say much about Murray, whose behaviour speaks for itself. But the fact that someone has been named on the internet does not remove anyone’s duty behave decently and responsibly towards the victim of an alleged crime.


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