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Jul. 16 2009 - 1:30 pm | 1,143 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

The bad idea file: Using sexual assault photos as an educational tool

Rape of the Sabines II

Image by storem via Flickr

“What’s the matter with Kansas?” is a question that’s been asked before. I must ask it again after seeing this story on Courthouse News Service: D.A. Showed Around Photos of Girl’s Sexual Assault.

Christine Felman, a 19-year-old girl from Anderson County, Kansas, is suing a county attorney for $75 million thousand for violating her privacy and causing her mental anguish by using photos of her alleged rape as an educational tool for parents.

In 2007, when Felman was 17, she went to a “nighttime field party,” according to her complaint. She alleged that a group of boys tore off her clothes at some point during the party and that one of the boys, a “South American exchange student,” raped her in a truck bed, while the others took photos.

After she reported the sexual assault to the police, they investigated, questioning witnesses and confiscating the photos taken at the party. The police turned all the evidence over to Anderson County Attorney Frederick Campbell, who ultimately decided not to prosecute the boy that Felman had accused of raping her.

Then Campbell thought it was a good idea to share the photos with others.

When investigators presented the case to Campbell, they gave him the photos taken at the party. He said he still believes they showed consensual sex and not assault. So he turned the photos, which also included several other drinking teens, into an educational tool. He blacked out some faces, including the girl’s.

via The Kansas City Star (not available online)

Campbell wanted parents to know what was happening at the parties their children were attending: the drinking, the sex. So he blacked out the faces in the photos and then showed them to the parents of the minors at the party.

Seriously? You couldn’t just describe what was happening, Campbell? Using words?

Felman’s family filed an ethics complaint, leading the Kansas Supreme Court to reprimand Campbell and suspend him from practicing law for six months. He told the Kansas City Star in January, at the time of the Supreme Court reprimand, “I wanted parents to pay attention to what their kids are doing. I wanted to get them involved with their kids. … I stepped outside my duties in an attempt to get parents to pay attention.”

Attention has been paid. And Christine Felman may be paid.

From her $75,000 million complaint [PDF] against Campbell, filed this week:

Felman is a female and has always lived a quiet and private life in Anderson County, Kansas and at all times has sought to preserve the respect of her friends and neighbors….

Felman had a legitimate expectation under the United States Constitution… that all records and sexually explicit photographs of her obtained during the investigation of Felman’s criminal complaint would not be disclosed or open to public inspection under any circumstances.

I don’t know in what universe Campbell thought using photos of a minor being sexually assaulted (or even having consensual sex) in order to teach a lesson to other parents was okay. He may be zealous about preventing underage drinking, but he’s not particularly zealous about protecting constitutional rights.


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    “…leading the Kansas Supreme Court to reprimand Campbell and suspend him from practicing law for six months.”

    Just six months? He should be fired for distributing sexually explicit photos of a minor! In a country where minors are getting charged with distributing child pornography after taking risque pictures of themselves with their cell phones, Campbell should be facing jail time instead of a slap on the wrist and a write-up.

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    I am a writer, reporter, editor and blogger. I'm an editor at Above The Law, where I blog about lawyers, judges, law firms and the legal industry. Here at True/Slant, I write about our changing notions of privacy.

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