Has Rihanna’s Privacy Been Violated?
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 12:30 PM | By Jessica Grose
Feministing writer Samhita Mukhopadhyay is up in
arms because the Los Angeles Times published
Rihanna’s name as Chris Brown’s accuser. For those
of you who missed it, Brown, Rihanna’s boyfriend,
was arrested Sunday for felony domestic violence.
Mukhopadhyay argues that Rihanna’s privacy has
been violated and also posits that Rihanna “is a
model to young women and they are affected by how
she responds to this problem. This is a tremendous
amount of pressure for anyone, let alone a young
woman who is a victim of domestic violence.”
Let’s start with the first point, which is that Rihanna’s
privacy has been violated. Most newspapers do not
print the accuser’s name in sexual and domestic
assault cases without the victim’s permission, though
it’s Slate media guru Jack Shafer’s anecdotal sense
that the press tide has been turning on the naming of
accusers in recent years. In the American Journalism
Review, Geneva Overholser, Missouri School of
Journalism professor and the Pulitzer prize winner
for a series on rape, argues that “in the long run, we’ll never get rid of the stigma if we
don’t treat these like regular crimes. … It’s just not ethical to make a choice about guilt or
innocence, which is effectively what we do. It makes us look like we are assuming
innocence on one part, guilt on another. … We should not be determining who deserves
our protection.” It’s also worth reiterating that this is a domestic violence case, and not a
sexual assault case, and from what I’ve seen it’s much more common for newspapers to
print the names of domestic assault accusers than rape accusers.
But more practically, Rihanna is globally known as Chris Brown’s girlfriend. The second
Brown’s arrest for domestic violence was publicized, the world would know that Rihanna
was the accuser. To gingerly dance around her name would be ignoring the 800-pound
gorilla in the room to a nearly absurd degree.
As for the notion that Rihanna is going to be thrust into the position of unwilling poster
child for domestic violence, I think that is a byproduct of the sort of squeaky-clean
celebrity image she’s so carefully constructed. And besides, as Jo-Ann Armao noted in
the Washington Post two years ago, shame is for criminals. If Rihanna’s the paid and
willing poster child for CoverGirl, Totes umbrellas, Clinique, and Secret Deodorant, is it so
terrible for her to be encouraged to speak out against domestic violence as well?