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Confidentiality Protections for Juvenile Victims Project

Summary: This project explores the statutory, constitutional and practical issues involved in providing better protections against the disclosure of the identities of juvenile crime victims. These disclosures occur in the course of reporting, investigating and adjudicating crimes committed against children by adults. The impacts of these disclosures are sometimes magnified by the news media’s reports of these crimes.

Background

Children and adolescents become crime victims at shockingly high rates. They are twice as likely to suffer violent crimes as adults. When the perpetrator of a crime against a child is another child, both the victim and the offender are generally shielded from public scrutiny. As a society, we generally believe that shielding young offenders from public attention promotes their rehabilitation and healthy development. Because criminal proceedings against adult offenders are generally public, when the perpetrator is an adult which occurs in about half of all reported violent offenses against children, both the victim and the offender are thrown into the public arena. For news organizations, reporting the victim's and witness' identity increases the story's human interest value. We have completed legal research into state and federal statutes as well as reported judicial opinions regarding privacy protections for juvenile crime victims. We have also examined the relationship between theories of tort liability and damages to the practices of reporting information about crime victims. In addition, we have analyzed published codes of professional ethics for journalists and professional commentaries for journalists on issues of including the identities of crime victims in news reports of the crimes committed against them. The target audiences for this project are law-enforcement professionals, legal professionals and policymakers who are involved in child protection investigations, adjudications and legislation. While publicizing victims' names may not be the norm for all crimes committed against children, it occurs quite often. The disclosure of victims' identities and the details of the crimes raise legal and ethical issues. From the legal standpoint, how should the law resolve the conflict between children's privacy interests and press freedom?

Goals and Objectives

As part of this project we have prepared scholarly and professional articles as well as model legislation. We are pleased to share the fruits of our research efforts with interested researchers, lawyers, legislators and advocates.

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