To the editor: Whitney Hall
To the editor:
To whom it may concern (everyone):
My name is Whitney Hall, and I am a sexual assault advocate. I work with Riverview Center, which, as of July 1, now proudly serves 14 counties in Iowa, including Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Howard, Linn, Jones, and Winneshiek counties, and Carroll and Jo Davies counties in Illinois.
Riverview Center provides free and confidential services such as medical and legal advocacy and a 24-hour crisis line, as well as counseling services for survivors of sexual assault and their families.
Recently, in the reading and research that I have been doing for Riverview Center to better serve our clients, it came to my attention that Iowa’s Rape Shield Law is severely lacking in comparison to other states. While the law accomplishes part of its purpose by limiting the defense’s ability to discuss past sexual behavior, Iowa’s Rape Shield Law does NOT prevent media outlets such as the television and newspaper from printing or broadcasting a rape victim’s name to the public. This needs to change.
In addition to providing privacy and a sense of safety and security to individuals at a time when their world has been turned upside-down, it is my firm belief that this protection would help more victims of sexual assault feel safe when reporting the crimes perpetrated against them, seeking justice, and receiving services to assist them. Although there are many reasons a victim may not report his or her assault, shame and fear are major factors that silence a victim. Ensuring that the victim's name could not be printed or broadcast to the public will help to eliminate the shame and fear of being judged by others when seeking justice.
According to the National
Women's Study, 66 percent of women stated that they would be more likely to report rapes if their identities were protected.
Additionally, 86 percent of victims would be less likely to report rapes if they believed the news media would
disclose their names.
According to the Department of Justice, 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day
in jail, leaving them free in society to continue to abuse others. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three women and one in five men in Iowa will be sexually victimized during their lifetime.
Even more startling is the information that tells us that 44 percent of all sexual assault victims are under the age of 18.
What would you want for your child if this tragedy reached out and touched your life? A sense of safety, protection, and privacy perhaps?
Currently, in the state of Iowa, where statutes on confidentiality do not trump the media's constitutional rights, this is not happening.
I urge you, on behalf of victims of sexual assault, to write to your senators and legislators to pass on your concerns. Together, we can support victims of sexual assault and help them to progress into survivors.