Limiting Disclosure of Rape Victim’s Identities

38 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2011

See all articles by Paul Marcus

Paul Marcus

William & Mary Law School

Tara L. McMahon

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 1990


A rape often leaves a woman with a long term if not permanent impact on life. Not only is the reporting of and testifying to the rape an emotionally painful experience, but the further dissemination of information by the media intensifies these harms. The Supreme Court has weighed the important privacy concerns of the victim against the legitimate interests of the media in reporting newsworthy events in two key cases: Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn and Florida Star v. B.J.F. Although the Court took a stance against limiting news stories relying on public documents in Cox Broadcasting, it did leave open the possibility of valid state sanctions against disclosure of the names of sexual assault victims prior to trial in Florida Star. The authors take the view that states should adopt narrowly and carefully written statutes designed to provide true protection for victims, while still not unduly interfering with the legitimate concerns of the media. Ending with a proposed statute, the authors conclude that states can protect victims from hurtful disclosures, encourage those victims to come forward, and continue to not unduly limit the public’s First Amendment right to know.

Keywords: rape, sexual assult, impact, media, privacy, disclosure, victims, and First Amendment

Suggested Citation

Marcus, Paul and McMahon, Tara L., Limiting Disclosure of Rape Victim’s Identities (1990). Southern California Law Review, Vol. 64, No. 4, 1990-1991, William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-84, Available at SSRN:

Paul Marcus (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

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Tara L. McMahon

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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