Law protects sexual assault victims - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Law protects sexual assault victims

July 25, 2003

Albany- A Florida-based supermarket tabloid is running a cover photo of the woman it claims is Kobe Bryant's accuser. The woman's eyes on the cover of are covered by a black strip.

The Globe did not give the woman's name. That's because there are laws against releasing the identity of a sex crime victim.

Sexual assault cases may get an abundance of attention, but lawmakers try to make sure that it isn't all focused on the already traumatized victim.

"There is a code section 16-6-23 which makes the publication of the name or identification of a sex assault or rape victim confidential. It particularly prohibits media or any other individual from disseminating this information," says Chief Assistant District Attorney Greg Edwards.

Anyone in violation of the statute could be charged with a misdemeanor. Still many feel that since the accused's name and face is publicized, it's the public right to know who is doing accusing.

"Our legislature has considered these two competing interests and determined that the sword of the public's right to know is not outweighed by the shield to protect the victim from this already very traumatic experience," adds Edwards.

"It important to protect their identities to preserve as much dignity for the person as possible," says Amy Boney of the Sunshine Center.

Boney primarily works with juvenile victims, but says since sexual assault is the most intrusive of all violent crimes, rape shield laws are definitely necessary.

"The victims tend to receive a lot of harassment from those that may not believe the allegations or those that side with the alleged perpetrator," she says.

And Georgia's rape shield act is designed to protect against just that.

Between October 1st of 2002 and June of this year, the Dougherty County District Attorney's Office prosecuted 116 sexual assault cases.

Posted at 5:30 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com