It was a step forward for open government when the Champaign County Circuit Clerk’s office started making court records available online through their website. However, not all records should be put online, such as the name and address of victims of rape.

Sheena Smith of the Orange and Blue Observer originally reported that if you know the name of somewhat who has been charged with rape, when you search their case you will see not only the name but the address of the victim in the record. A search from a 2003 court case says “As a condition of the Defendant’s bond, Deft. Is ordered to HAVE NO CONTACT whatsoever, directly or indirectly with the named victim.” In a 2006 case, instead of saying the named victim, it gives the full name and address of the victim. This appears to be a new change for that office. Other cases also show the name and addresses of the victims.

Almost every media outlet will not report a rape victim’s name. It’s a delicate crime that, in the few times it is reported, results in a very ugly trial. There is also a public stigma attached to rape victims that leads many to simply not report the crime. While being able to confront witnesses in open court is a necessity for the wheels of justice to turn, it does not follow that the victim’s name and address needs to be plastered across the web.

Linda Frank, the current Circuit Clerk, should rethink the policy of publishing this information on the web or it runs the risk of discouraging more women from coming forward to help get these criminals off the streets.

John Bambenek is the Assistant Politics Editor for Blogcritics and is an academic professional for the University of Illinois. He is a freelance columnist who blogs at Part-Time Pundit and the executive director of The Tumaini Foundation which helps AIDS orphans in Tanzania with education. He is the current owner of BlogSoldiers, a blog-only traffic exchange.

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