Melanie Alnwick

Raves, Rants & Reviews from Emmy Award Winning Journalist & Anchor, Melanie Alnwick

Sex Crime at Sidwell Friends School 

March 18, 2016
Wow. Quite a headline story to walk into this morning. And to be honest – I had some internal debates over how to cover it. My questions, off the top:

1) Would we do the story if it happened at any other school? Yes, we would and we have. Once we verified with DC Police that it occurred on the school grounds and involved two students at the school, I felt more comfortable with it.
Does it make headlines because it is where the Obama daughters go to school? Of course it does. But it is also a legitimate front-pager because the crime is incongruous with its setting, as it would be on any secondary school campus.
2) Alleged “Sex Abuse” or “Rape” ? Often media will use the term “sex abuse” or “sexual assault” as a blanket statement. Sometimes we do it, I think, because we want to protect the victim from further humiliation. Other times, that’s the wording given to us by police, and we don’t have any more detail. In this case, the words on the police report are clear – “forced to have vaginal, oral, anal sexual intercourse with Subject 2 without her consent”

That’s rape, and I believe we should say so.
3) Is the SCHOOL the story? Not yet, in my opinion.

What we know right now is that the male & female students (said to be about 16-17 yo) “had a previous sexual relationship”, according to the police report.

The report was taken at 10:52 pm on Wednesday, 16 March – and says the “event” started at 2:34 pm. It does not say where on the 15 acre campus the alleged rape occurred. UPDATE: a source tells me it happened in the athletic center bathroom.
The school website says dismissal on Wednesdays is at 3:15pm. So – while we need to be really clear that no teachers or staff were involved in the sex crime itself… IF we learn that this happened while school was in full session, then there will be questions about Sidwell administration and its response.
Right now we have a story about a teen girl alleging a brutal attack by her ex-boyfriend on their private school campus. We in the media need to say what it is, and isn’t.


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This entry was posted on 18 March 2016 by and tagged , , , .
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