Media rants

Bandwagon reporting doesn't do victims of sex crimes any favors

Bandwagon reporting doesn't do victims of sex crimes any favors

It's an interesting day when merely raising the question of an accused criminal's guilt or innocence results in an outcry. Disregard the fact that not every person accused — and even convicted — of a heinous crime is guilty.

Forget due process. Toss out innocent until proven guilty. Any 18-year-old should immediately be condemned when accused of rape. Just lock up this kid forever. 

If only the world were so simple. 

Ryan Romo, 18, was arrested on October 29 for sexual assault of a child. In recorded phone calls, he admitted to having sex with a fellow Highland Park High School student on October 28 after a Ghostland Observatory concert at the Palladium Ballroom. 

 ​When you can’t even question a person’s guilt before a case goes to trial, there is a serious problem.

I have some experience covering sexual assault cases. I fully subscribe to the belief that even if a female walks down the street naked, she doesn’t “deserve” to be raped. No matter what choices a girl makes, she always has the right to say no. And when men don’t listen, it’s rape. Period.

However, we don’t know that’s what happened in that Chevy Tahoe on Saturday. And when the two parties are high school students, the situation is much murkier than, say, a 32-year-old teacher preying on his pupil. When you immediately declare the accused guilty, you risk creating a different victim. But shame on a reporter for taking an emotionless approach to a volatile topic.

Stepping off the specifically prescribed, tough-on-crime, “lock ’em up and throw away the key” talking point gets you labeled a victim-blamer. Never mind that I spelled out that anyone who forces another person to have intercourse is a sexual predator. If you raise questions in a sexual assault case, you are accused of hating women

When you can’t even question a person’s guilt before a case goes to trial, there is a serious problem. 

I couldn’t care less that this guy is a star baseball player, but that doesn’t make the modifier any less true. Were Romo a budding ukulele player, that would’ve gone in the story instead. 

If Romo forced himself on a fellow student, he aptly will be labeled a rapist. But the term child molester still wouldn’t fit, and any law that labels sex with a peer a case of pedophilia deserves scrutiny.

In the Episcopal School of Dallas case, the lines were clearly drawn. A married teacher groomed and manipulated his student. He took advantage of her and committed sexual assault of a child. 

They were never on the same page psychologically. There weren’t questions to be answered in the ESD case, only a matter of punishment.

But every sexual assault case is not so black and white

Ryan Romo
Highland Park baseball star Ryan Romo was arrested October 29 on charges of sexual assault of a child.  University Park Police