South Bend, Ind. — If you still need convinced that leftest activism has infiltrated nearly every media outlet across the country, look no further than three local news outlets in Michiana that went against standard reporting practices of not naming the victim of an alleged sexual incident. WSBT, ABC57 and the South Bend Tribune all named the alleged victim in a federal lawsuit who claims she was sexually harassed by the Democrat Board Member of the St. Joseph County Voter Registration office, Muhammad Shabazz. The victim in this case is a Republican. REAL News Michiana reported on the lawsuit and subsequent reporting here. RNM didn’t name the victim then and will not now.
“When I first saw it (the news coverage on WSBT), I was sitting there. I had a pillow over my face. My family was there. I wanted to melt into the couch. I was mortified. It took a minute to set in. I was devastated.” The alleged victim told RNM.
RNM spoke to the alleged victim about the impact the media coverage had on her life. She touches on nearly every reason why it’s long been standard practice in nearly every newsroom across the country not to name victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
“I didn’t want my name out there. I didn’t want the judgement that was coming from it.” She said.
There are a multitude of reasons why news outlets typically do not name certain victims. In cases involving sexual assault and harassment, the stigma associated with the claims is one main factor. There is also a belief that naming victims can cause other victims of sexual incidents not to report what has happened to them out of fear of being stigmatized themselves. The New York Times wrote a great article about the reasoning here. You can also read about the standards from Poynter here. And, even more here. I learned about this standard in my first journalism class. EVERY JOURNALIST KNOWS THESE STANDARDS. So, why then did three local outlets decide to run this victim’s name?
“The way it hit the news wasn’t because I was a victim. It was because I was a Republican and he was a Democrat. That was a huge part of the story.” The alleged victim said.
There are very few exceptions to the “naming” rule. The main exception is when the victim expressly tells a journalist that she wants to come forward and be identified. The victim in this case says some journalists reached out to her attorney. None of them reached out to her.
“Not at all.” She said. “No social media outreach. No. None.”
While three outlets named her, one of them showed her picture as reported by Max Lewis at WSBT. It’s unclear if Mr. Lewis edited the video himself, but most television reporters in the area shoot and edit their own video.
“They made me look like a criminal with the way they floated my head in the video and the way they shaded it.” The alleged victim said.
The impact on this woman’s life has been devastating across the board.
“You google me and that’s the first thing that comes up and my picture.” She said. “I’m applying for jobs. Nobody contacts me back. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
“I’m lucky if I get 4 hours of sleep a night.” She added. “I have been slammed all over social media. I’ve been called a racist. I couldn’t respond. It was maddening. It is insane. I was a victim. Then it was like I was a victim again and I can’t say anything because of my lawsuit. It’s like, we will cover your mouth and let everyone yell at you and there is nothing I can do.”
The alleged victim says it’s also been hard for her to simply leave her home.
“Thank God for face masks right now.” She said.
RNM requested the newsroom standards from every outlet that reported the victim’s name. WSBT News Director, John Hafferkamp and reporter Max Lewis, did not respond. Here is an example of the outlet withholding a name of a victim.
RNM also reached out ABC57 News Director, Kyle Fobe. He did not respond. Here is an example of ABC57 not naming a victim.
South Bend Tribune Editors, Corey Havens and Alan Achkar, did not respond the RNM’s requests either. Here is an example of their double standard as well.
WNDU simply did not report on the story at all.