A Comment on Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn, 95 S.Ct. 1029 (1975).
Rape is a crime in which a greater social stigma is often attached to the victim than to the perpetrator. A robbery victim is rarely made to feel that he "asked for it," but a rape victim frequently is. In implicit recognition of the "chilling effect" this situation has on reports and prosecutions of rape offenses, the legislatures of Georgia' and of several other states' have enacted statutes prohibiting media disclosure of a rape victim's name or identity. That the identity of a rape victim is in our society a conventionally designated area of privacy is witnessed by the fact that many newspapers, if not most, voluntarily refrain from divulging this information.
In Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn3 the constitutionality of the Georgia statute which made it a misdemeanor to disclose a rape victim's name was successfully challenged by Cox Broadcasting Corporation. In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States held that for a state to impose criminal or civil sanctions upon the media for the dissemination of truthful information obtained from public records violated the first amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of press. The Court declined to decide the broader question "whether truthful publications may ever be subjected to civil or criminal liability consistently with the first and fourteenth amendments, or … whether the States may ever define and protect an area of privacy free from unwanted publicity."4 Thus, the decision apparently leaves intact the common law tort of invasion of privacy, but fails to articulate when, if ever, criminal or civil liability may attach for the publication of accurate information which intrudes upon an individual's privacy.
This Comment proposes to consider whether it may ever be constitutionally permissible for a state to prohibit the revelation of damaging personal information obtained from public records and whether the holding in Cox necessarily blocks all avenues of judicial relief to a rape victim who has suffered measurable harm as a result of media publicity.
Grandjean, Dalma C.
"Privacy: Does Freedom of the Press Allow for Protection of a Rape Victim's Identity,"
University of Dayton Law Review: Vol. 1:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udlr/vol1/iss1/5