Two years ago, I discovered that my granddaughter had been the victim of a sexual crime.
Nothing can prepare you for that kind of information. But after my family’s immediate reaction, our thoughts soon turned to her future. How could we protect her from suffering the consequences of this crime for the rest of her life?
The least she should be entitled to is privacy, over this deeply personal and traumatic event – and naively, I assumed her privacy would be protected. But I was wrong.
Because as the perpetrator was being brought to justice, one newspaper saw fit to publish – in graphic detail – a report of my granddaughter’s ordeal. Even worse, and despite the sexual nature of the crimes, enough information was in the report to identify my granddaughter as the victim to those who know my family.
I remember the day I first came across the article. The level of detail was gratuitous; there was no sense of thought or compassion for the child or her family.
It made me sick to the point I passed out.
We were contacted by several family members and wider friends who were able to identify my granddaughter as the victim, by virtue of the details included in the article.
I thought of my granddaughter’s schooldays, first job, those crucial stages of her young life. Would rumours spread? Would whispers follow her in the playground? Would she forever feel and be perceived as a “victim”?
The only motivation I can think of for publishing this story was the vanity of the reporter, who was desperate to get a “juicy story”.
No doubt, it made them some money. But the damage which has been done – and will continue to be done – to my granddaughter and our family is irreparable.
When I went to IPSO, I was hopeful. I felt sure I could get some measure of justice, and at least have the story taken down.
But my hopes quickly evaporated. The IPSO process was long, with constant emails back and forth. The newspaper denied they did anything wrong. They did eventually offer to remove the first article – but wouldn’t remove any of the subsequent articles which were later published, which still left my granddaughter identifiable.
Every time the newspaper replied, IPSO would just send me a copy for me to reply back. I was under the impression that I would put my complaint to IPSO, who would then investigate or deal with it through their complaints panel and make up their own minds as to whether the newspaper had breached the code. This is what normally happens with any other regulator I am aware of. But they just kept going back to the newspaper for yet another round of correspondence.
Complaining to IPSO was exhausting – like a fulltime job.
And unlike the people working for the newspaper, I wasn’t being paid to do it.
I thought I would get a decision in a few weeks. But in reality it went on for 8 long months.
Not only was this stressful, but my family and I also found it hurtful and insulting. We felt the odds were stacked against us from the start. We thought IPSO was supposed to be on our side – but in reality, it was on the side of the newspaper.
Then, sure enough, I received IPSO’s final decision: complaint rejected.
IPSO’s own standards code is very clear about sexual offences involving children and the seriousness of identification. I feel as if they completely went against their own rules in order to reject this complaint and made every excuse under the sun to avoid finding against the newspaper.
It’s hard for me to write this.
Even though it is anonymous, I am nervous to say anything given the risk to my family.
But I just think this is too important to keep silent about it. This time it was my family, but there must be dozens of others who have been affected in similar ways. We need proper regulation to protect the public.
My granddaughter deserves better than this, and so does everyone else affected by press wrongdoing.
*Sally is a pseudonym to protect the author’s identity. The pictures in this article are all stock images.