‘I Can Say This Because I Was One of the Victims’: TV News and Victims Who Want to Talk

By Mark Joyella Comment

Extending her exclusive with the embattled Duggar family, Megyn Kelly will air an interview Friday with Jessa Seewald and her sister Jill Dillard, who defend their brother Josh Duggar.

In a preview released by Fox News, Kelly asks if they consider themselves victims. “I do want to speak up in his defense against people who are calling him a child molester or a pedophile or a rapist, some people are saying,” Seewald says. “I’m like, that is so overboard and a lie really, I mean people get mad at me for saying that but I can say this because I was one of the victims.” The family confirmed that four Duggar daughters, one just 5 years old, as well as a babysitter were assualted by Josh Duggar in 2003-2004, when he was 15 years old.

To protect victims, journalists rarely use their names or faces. As the Poynter Institute’s Bob Steele writes, “most news organizations do not report the names of sexual assault victims unless the victims are willing to be publicly identified.”

In the case of the Duggars, Fox News has reported that the daughters and their family wanted to speak out. That’s led other journalists to identify the daughters–with a disclaimer explaining the decision. “The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual mistreatment,” reads an AP report on the Duggar interview. “But Jessa Duggar is speaking publicly, in an interview that Fox’s Megyn Kelly also conducted with her parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.”

CNN handled a 2013 interview in much the same way, making clear that “CNN does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual assault but has done so in this case” because the teen and her mother “have chosen to go public.”

But the Poynter Institute’s Steele cautions that not every willing interview victim should be interviewed. Writing about a California kidnapping and rape case, Steele said journalists need to use restraint. “I would not identify them just because they said it was OK,” he wrote. “I would want to know what crisis counseling they received before agreeing to go public. I would want to know how much professional help they’d received to deal with their trauma. I would want to know what guidance they’d received in making such a profound decision about agreeing to attach their name to the words, ‘rape victim.’”

The Duggars, in their Fox News interview, said all their children–including Josh and his sisters–had received counseling. The family has urged its followers to watch the daughters’ interview Friday in a post to the family Facebook page.

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