After a Sex Assault Charge, You May Wonder “Where Do I go to Get my Reputation Back?”
In Illinois, the consequences of a criminal sexual charge can be life changing. Dominique Stauss-Kahn stated his life had become a “nightmare” after sexual assault charges were filed against him in May of 2011.
Generally, after an alleged sexual assault the identity of a victim is never made public, however, as in the Stauss-Kaun case, the name of the person accused of a sexual assault or abuse charge is open to the public.
Social media has only compounded the problem since it allows the name of an accused to be published extensively within a short time. This results in a “trial by media” and can be a failure of the courts, and media, to protect the “presumption of innocence.” Some suggest reforming the law, so that the identity of the accused remains anonymous until trial.
The stigma of being accused of a sex crime can lead to ruined reputations, financial ruin and possibly a lost career. As well, relationships with friends, a spouse and children may be lost. This is regardless of the verdict.
In the case of Stauss-Kahn, the prosecution dismissed all the charges. Unfortunately, he had lost his job as head of the International Monetary Fund and his chances of running for the French presidency where virtually ruined.
Is it Possible to Keep the Identity of the Accused Anonymous?
Other countries have laws that protect the identity of the accused. For example, in South Australia the law prevents identifying anyone accused of a sexual offense before they have had a trial. Although, social media may allow gossip about charges if the person charged holds a public or high profile office. In the UK, a past law used to protect the identity of the victim and the accused. This law was changed in 1988, but in 2010 a proposal was discussed to maintain anonymity from the time of arrest to the filing of charges.
A modest change to the law in Illinois to keep the identity of the accused anonymous until trial might discourage false claims and reduce the ability to use these charges as blackmail or a weapon in domestic disputes. Even at the investigation phase of a sexual assault or abuse case, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
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