A woman raped as a teenager was stunned to hear that the police report of her assault was part of a college journalism class lesson on crime records.
“I was in complete shock,” Lavender Walther, now 21, said Sept. 29. “I couldn’t believe it. I had never even seen the police report. I didn’t think you could get it and just pass it out like that.”
The report of her 2002 rape at knifepoint in Cincinnati at age 17 carried her name, address, physical characteristics and other details. She found out about it from an acquaintance who was a student in the class at the University of Cincinnati last fall and called her.
“I had no privacy,” Walther said. “I was victimized again.”
Walther agreed last week to settle her lawsuit charging invasion of privacy against the university. UC agreed to pay $7,500.
Police reports are public records, but most news organizations generally do not report names of sexual-assault victims. Jon Hughes, director of journalism at the school, said Al Salvato, a veteran teacher and journalist, told him he used the Cincinnati police report last year to illustrate how reporters deal with sensitive situations.
“It was his impression, at least initially, of what students should not report — it was used in that vein,” Hughes said.
Salvato died this year.
UC spokesman Greg Hand said regardless of the legal issues, the school didn’t want to prolong the case for Walther. The university also considers use of the report in a class to have been inappropriate, he said.
“There are ways to communicate the same information and to teach the same lesson without using a document in this manner,” Hand said.
Walther hopes to use the $5,000 she’ll receive after legal costs toward attending college — but probably not at the University of Cincinnati.
No one was convicted in Walther’s rape. She said she didn’t mind discussing the assault or being identified, but not without her knowledge.
“This is my life,” she said. “I don’t care who knows what, but I don’t want someone to just take my police report and make it seem like I’m not a real person anymore.”