I understand that violating a court order is a problem. But how do victims protect themselves when a court prevents the victim of a crime from publishing the names of her attackers -- even when it was proven in court they are the attackers?
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal
Frustrated by what she felt was a lenient plea bargain for two teens who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her and circulating pictures of the incident, a Louisville 17-year-old lashed out on Twitter.Apparently, Dietrich was sexually assaulted by two teen boys she knew in August 2011. She had been drinking at a party and became unconscious. Months later she learned that pictures of the incident had been taken and shared with others.
“There you go, lock me up,” Savannah Dietrich tweeted, as she named the boys who she said sexually assaulted her. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”
Now, Dietrich is facing a potential jail sentence, as the attorneys for the boys have asked a Jefferson District Court judge to hold her in contempt because they say that in naming her attackers, she violated the confidentiality of a juvenile hearing and the court’s order not to speak of it.
So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys,” said Dietrich, who waived confidentiality in her case to speak to The Courier-Journal. Her parents also gave their written permission for her to speak with the newspaper.
“For months, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t go out in public places,” she told the newspaper, as her father, Michael, and attorneys sat nearby. “You just sit there and wonder, who saw (the pictures), who knows?”The fact she is publicizing this is not news. Women have complained to anyone who would listen for ages. The difference is now that complaining can be done using social media like Facebook and Twitter.
“In the past, people would complain to anyone who would listen, but they didn’t have a way to publish their comments where there would be a permanent record, like on Facebook and Twitter, for people to see worldwide,” said Gregg Leslie, interim executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va.Notice, the issue here is NOT defamation. She is not publishing false information about her attackers. They have confessed to first-degree sexual abuse. That is a felony. They admit they sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious, took pictures of the assault and then distributing the pictures online. This is not a case of guys getting "carried away" in the heat of the moment.
“It’s just going to happen more and more.”
I also think it is important to realize she was not party to the prosecution deal. Dietrich and her family didn't know about the plea bargain and recommended sentence until just before it was announced in court. In other words, decisions about her life and about those who attacked her were made without her consent. I am not debating whether the boys received a fair sentence or not. But I think it is outlandish that the court went the extra mile and stripped the victim of her First Amendment rights to protect people who committed a crime.
Public safety would argue their names should be known. There is a well-documented pattern of escalating violence with predators. Sexual predators are also notorious recidivists. By naming her attackers, Dietrich is also protecting herself after having been let down by the justice system. She has legitimate concerns about her safety from these guys. Here's why. The attackers, whose names appeared in the comment section of the article about this story on the New York Post website, are both lacrosse players on a local Louisville team. When you read their profiles knowing what you know now, they are downright chilling.
Here is Will Frey's profile on the team website for the Bluegrass Bats.
"He is a strong athlete that loves challenges. He does not intimidate easily. His signature move the French Frey is a combination of face dodge and split dodge. He can score in any position. Will believes he resembles a Wildabeast, because he is a Wildabeast. Will is a Junior and would like to attend Centre, Denver, or Jacksonville to play lacrosse. When he is on the field he whispers in his opponent's ear "Fear the BAT."Sounds like your typical macho lunkhead... intimidate and bully to get ahead.
Here is Austin Zehnde's profile on the team website, amongst other things notes:
Hoping to become a doctor he feels he surgically debilitates his opponents, as they feel he has removed certain organs without anesthesia.You might dismiss this sadistic imagery as boyish bravado ... but when you browse the other profiles on the page, these two stand out. Even if you didn't know they were convicted of felony assault. Judging from the differences in writing style, I am guessing the profiles were either written by the players themselves, or with their input. The contrast to the other profiles on this site is quite stark.:
* Left handed, tall, and a scoring threat every time he handles the ball.The point here is there is a clear line between healthy athletic competitiveness and thuggery. Even more disturbing is the fact that the profiles were published on the team web site AFTER the two were arrested, arraigned, confessed, and convicted of felony sexual assault. I don't see any evidence of remorse here. I don't see any evidence they have learned any lesson other than -- I am special and I can get away with murder if I want.
* Nicknamed "The Green Lantern" on the field he uses hypnosis to flumox his opponents.
* Casey is a scoring threat whenever he touches the ball.
* Opponents fear his arm pit hair as he towers above them. He dyes one pit hair blue after every Bat win. He whispers in opponents ears during the game, "Want to meet my pit hairs?" His signature move is the "Sasquatch" which fans on the sidelines can't watch. It is too disturbing.
* One of the sneakiest Attackmen in the state. He is not afraid to mix it up with more Brawny players. Evan can find open areas on the field and can flush the ball.
* Austin is one of the strongest players in Eastern Kentucky area. He will surely play college Lacrosse and contribute to any team he plays for. A team player he is also an exceptional motivator.
This is not as unusual as we like to believe. Recently, there was a widely publicized case in Virginia at UVA, involving the murder of a young woman by her lacrosse-playing boyfriend, George Huguely.
Like the two attackers in this case, he enjoyed the sort of privilege that comes with being white and well-off. Huguely graduated from the prestigious Landon School outside of Washington DC. He came from a wealthy family. And here is the scary parallel. Prior to committing murder, George Huguely had a prior record of violence. In that case it was also a female. However, it was a female cop.
A policewoman from the Lexington Police Department in Virginia has come forward with claims that she was involved in a violent altercation with Huguely in November 2008, in which she had to taser him.The fact he did not go to jail for assaulting a police officer is surprising. And even that was not the only violent incident on record. The Washington Post reported:
University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely attacked a sleeping teammate last year, leaving his face bruised, after hearing that the player had kissed Yeardley Love, a student Huguely had dated, according to three former U-Va. lacrosse players with knowledge of the incident.Whenever one of these tragedies hits the papers and some young jock gets busted for doing something outrageous, people try to downplay it. People forget about it. Later they act surprised when some poor girl winds up dead. It is clear Savannah Dietrich is not going to sit around and be victimized anymore.
U-Va. lacrosse Coach Dom Starsia quickly learned of the February 2009 incident and disciplined the two players, although both played in games that week, according to the former players, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and records of the games.
The contempt hearing in this case is scheduled for July 30. The Courier-Journal and Dietrich’s attorneys have filed motions to open the proceedings, arguing she has a First Amendment right to speak about what happened in her case and a right to a public hearing on the contempt charge.
In a time when there is a wide-spread campaign to deny women basic rights, I think it is testimony to Savannah Dietrich's courage that she is willing to stand up for her rights, even if she has to engage in civil disobedience. Reasonable people of good will can disagree about whether or not she should follow the dictates of her conscience or the law as laid down by Judge Dee McDonald. However, regardless of how this plays out, there is a huge difference between what she is doing and what her attackers did. Unlike her attackers, she is willing to accept the consequences of her actions. It is entirely possible that by putting herself at risk, Savannah may be saving the lives of women she will never meet.