I’ve done some peer counseling in rape recovery over the years. The ability of a sexual assault victim to be in control of how and when and whether that story is told, and whether his or her identity is disclosed, is very important. So, I worry about cases like this, where a newspaper has filed an open records request for the identity of the sexual partner of a program manager who was terminated because of the sexual relationship.
It’s not clear from the story in The News and Tribune, an Indiana newspaper, what the reasons are to believe that criminal sexual behavior occurred. Even if–as seems unlikely, given the tone of the article–it was consensual, I’m uncomfortable at the idea that the identity of a sexual partner becoming FOIAable.
The newspaper says it doesn’t release the names of victims, although it wants the name of the victim so it can provide some general information about her to the paper’s readers.
Steve Key, attorney for the Hoosier State Press Association, believes that the victim’s identity is FOIAable:
“The records you seek are part of the factual basis for the employee’s termination and should be made available pursuant to the Access to Public Records Act. If they want to redact the name of the woman involved, they are going to have to cite statutory authority relevant to their agency.
In order to ensure that the identity of the victim remains as confidential as possible, perhaps the agency–the Clark County Supervision Program–could provide the general information the newspaper seeks.
The information the newspaper wants is:
…as her age, the community in which she lives and the charges on which she has been convicted that led to her becoming a client of the Community Supervision Program.