N.L. paper apologizes for headline critics said blamed sex case complainant
A Newfoundland newspaper has issued an apology for a headline some readers said blamed the victim of an alleged sexual assault by a police officer.
Steve Bartlett, managing editor of the Telegram in St. John’s, N.L., said in a letter to readers that the headline writer was trying to draw attention to the role consent plays in the allegations against Const. Carl Snelgrove of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.
“There was no intent to blame or judge the complainant, or to imply she was responsible for what happened,’’ wrote Bartlett in a letter published in Monday’s paper. “But that’s how, understandably, many of you interpreted it.’’
Snelgrove is accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman he drove home from a bar while on duty in December 2014.
The Crown argues the 10-year RNC veteran took advantage of the vulnerable woman, who was in no position to consent because of her level of intoxication.
However, a headline in Friday’s paper for a story about the case that read “Too drunk to remember,’’ drew outrage from some readers, who said it shamed the victim.
Bartlett said many people were offended by the headline, and the paper will learn from the anger.
“Our journalists, to a person, show up each day ready to hold those in power to account, ready to fight for those who have been wronged and ready to make our society better. They work extremely hard at doing these things,’’ said Bartlett.
“No one on our team would ever intentionally choose words to aggravate a victim’s suffering or, as some are implying, perpetuate rape culture. That goes against everything we stand and fight for.’’
Jenny Wright of the St. John’s Status of Women Council wrote in a column in Monday’s paper that the media wrongly focused on the woman’s behaviour rather than the alleged actions of the police officer.
“We are frustrated that once again we must remind the media that rape isn’t a commodity you get to benefit from, that wrapping up someone’s very real experience of violence into a salacious headline to sell papers is intentionally cruel,’’ said Wright.