The New York Times is running a story on-line about the rape charge against Lawrence Taylor. A short while ago, that story included this sentence: "The Journal News reported that the victim was a runaway from the Bronx . . . ."
I then sent a note, reprinted below, to the story's author, and thereafter, the line above was changed to the following: "The Journal News reported that the girl was a runaway from the Bronx . . . ."
Here is the link to the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/sports/football/07taylor.html
Here is the note I sent to Lynn Zinser, author of the story:
I founded the nation's leading Web site that gives voice to persons falsely accused of rape and related allegations, The False Rape Society.
In your story about Lawrence Taylor, you wrote: ". . . the victim was a runaway from the Bronx . . . ."
By labeling the accuser as a "victim" before a scrap of evidence has been admitted at trial, much less an adjudication of guilt, you have impliedly rushed to judgment and declared her allegation to be factual.
Such a description does a grave disservice to (1) Mr. Taylor, who is presumptively innocent of the charges against him, since, by necessity, he must be guilty if his accuser is, in fact, a "victim"; (2) actual rape victims, because you trivialize rape when you include among its victims women who may, or may not, be actual victims; and (3) your readers, who are entitled to accurate reporting but receive something less than that when you transform an accuser into a "victim."
It is well to note that every objective study ever conducted on false rape claims shows that they are a significant problem.
The only fair manner of reporting on these cases is to refer to accusers as exactly what they are: accusers. I implore you to exercise greater care in reporting on such stories, and to show sensitivity to the presumptively innocent and their families, by not suggesting that the trial is over even before it has begun.