Media publication of information about child abuse victims and their families may be detrimental to the victims. This is particularly true in cases of sexual abuse, but it may be just as serious in some cases of physical abuse or neglect. Many states lack laws that restrict publicity concerning the identity of child abuse victims and their families. As a result, serious harm to children can occur, not only at the time of the trial or hearing, but when subsequent stories appear years later.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all states adopt laws to prevent public disclosure of information that identifies victims of child abuse. The laws should grant courts the discretion to take one or more of the following measures during hearings of alleged civil or criminal child abuse/neglect: (1) exclude the public and media from a proceeding during the testimony of the child victim; (2) exclude the public (but not the media) from an entire proceeding; and (3) use pseudonyms in court records for the child victim and his or her family members.
Criteria by which the need for such protective measures should be judged include (1) the likelihood of identification of the child victim to the public if the protective measure is not taken; (2) the nature of the conduct that is the basis for the proceeding; (3) the child victim's age and level of maturity; (4) the desires of the child victim; and (5) in cases in which a family member is the defendant, the need to protect the family from publicity to encourage the resolution of family problems.
- Copyright © 1991 by the American Academy of Pediatrics