Friday, January 04, 2013

Rape, Defamation, Invasion of Privacy and Steubenville

Steubenville, Ohio, has been in the news of late with regards to a trial in which two high school students are charged with rape. Recently, an anonymous group has been leaking information on Twitter and other online media sites to share "facts" it believes have been kept hidden to protect the accused students, raising legal questions regarding whether the group is defaming or invading the privacy of local Steubenville residents.

Regardless of the legal outcome of any charges or claims brought, the case is also an interesting study in persuasive, biased, and objective writing on a sensitive subject. How the incident has been described (e.g., referring to the alleged rape as "alleged" or as an "incident") and the phrases used to describe the defendants (e.g., high school students, youth, football players, bullies) are fundamental elements of the case, and the attorneys' choice of words at trial will certainly shape the verdict.

Spend a moment considering how you'd phrase things if you were defense counsel or the prosecutor. For tips on persuasive and sensitive communication, check out Tongue-Tied America, The Anatomy of Persuasion, and Client Science: Advice for Lawyers on Counseling Clients Through Bad News and Other Legal Realities.

Rape, Lawsuits, Anonymous Leaks: What's Going On in Steubenville, Ohio? (

Herald Star Online (Steubenville newspaper)

Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City (NY Times)