Five of Sandusky’s accusers had requested that the court keep their names anonymous, due to the highly charged nature of their accusations. Judge Cleland, in his order deciding the outcome of this request, wrote: “While I will make every effort to be sensitive to the nature of the alleged victims' testimony, once the trial begins the veil must be lifted.”
This decision highlights one of the most heated issues in rape and sexual abuse trials – how victims often find themselves the ones on trial.
The defense often delves deep into the victim’s prior sexual history, their behavior leading up to the alleged incident, and anything and everything that might suggest they consented to the assault. It can be deeply humiliating to have every aspect of one’s private life exposed for public consumption – and court-granted anonymity is one solution to that problem.
Some argue that anonymity will encourage victims to come forward, and possibly help correct the fact that a vast percentage of rapes apparently go unreported, and of those that do, an even smaller percentage actually go to trial.
But is granting victims anonymity really fair?
As the recent exoneration of football star Brian Banks demonstrates, false accusations of rape can and do happen – and people go to jail as a result of them. While anonymity might be a great thing to offer victims of alleged rape, there’s no doubt that it does prevent a truly unbiased case being presented; and most would agree that it’s far worse for somebody innocent to be falsely convicted of a crime than letting somebody guilty escape the punishment they deserve.
Our criminal prosecution system is far from perfect; but does that justify shifting our “presumption of innocence” to a presumption of guilt in rape cases?
What do you think?