Readers questioned why the New York Times named and photographed sexual abuse victims in an Aug. 23 story about accusations of sexual abuse against Vatican ambassador to the Dominican Republic Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski.
Wesolowski has been defrocked and the Vatican plans to try him for criminal sexual abuse, the Times reported. As part of the Times story, reporter Laurie Goodstein quoted some of his victims, including victims who said they were 11 and 14 when the abuse began.
The victims are now 14 and 17.
Normally, victims of sex crimes are granted anonymity to protect their privacy.
After the newspaper received the readers’ complaints, Margaret Sullivan, New York Times public editor, asked Goodstein why the victims were named. Goodstein explained that the victims wanted to be identified and were well aware of the implications of being identified in the report for the Times.
“The teenagers identified in the story as abuse victims not only gave us permission to use their names and take their photographs, but wanted their stories to be told. There is no double standard here,” Goodstein told Sullivan.
Goodstein added: “In the case of these specific children, they wanted to give their testimony to someone because they had not been interviewed by the authorities. We interviewed them on multiple occasions, made it clear that their names and pictures would be published in a newspaper and on the Internet, and they were sure that they wanted to proceed.”
Further, Goodstein said “We don’t identify abuse victims when they want to remain anonymous, or it there’s any question about it. We preserve their anonymity. But in cases where victims want to speak out, and they sometimes do, we honor that too.”
Sullivan commented that while the Times “handled properly” the identification of the victims, the newspaper could have added “a sentence or two that described the knowledge and consent of the teenagers” as “a welcome and useful piece of transparency.”
iMediaEthics has written to Goodstein to ask if she also obtained approval or consent from the victims’ parents given they are still minors.