What I'm Reading

February 12, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — ajdoesdc @ 3:43 am

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? 

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