More than most crimes, charges of sexual assault carry more than just the possibility of a conviction. Even for individuals who are acquitted of such charges, public stigma and a presumption of guilt often remains.

A recently published article by Roy Black-the attorney who successfully defended William Kennedy Smith of rape charges back in 1991-makes the case that those accused of rape often suffer a terrible loss of reputation, and should receive extra protection as a result. In Black’s view, those accused of rape should be anonymous unless and until they are found to be guilty of the crime for which they are charged.

As evidence to support his case, Black points out that a number of well known men-David Copperfield, Michael Flatley, Rene Angelil, Rick Pitno, Kobe Bryant, the three Duke LaCrosse players, the four students from Hofstra-have been accused of rape and subsequently acquitted, only to find that the acquittal did little to restore their reputation.

Public shaming associated with rape accusations is set up so that the accused look suspicious, regardless of their fault. A case in point is French economist, lawyer and politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), who was charged in May with sexually assaulting a housekeeper who came into his Sofitel hotel suite in New York City. DSK was indicted on sexual assault charges on May 18. He subsequently pleaded not guilty of the charges, but remained confined to a New York apartment under guard on a court order until the end of June, when it was revealed that the housekeeper admitted lying to a grand jury about the events surrounding the alleged attack. While that case has not yet been formally dismissed, DSK’s reputation was sufficiently harmed in the days and weeks after the accusations became public.

As Black points out, the pain of enduring rape charges often takes a severe emotional toll on defendants and leaves their financial lives, career, friends, businesses, and family shattered to pieces.

As is obvious, it is critical for anyone accused of such a crime to obtain the assistance of an experienced attorney. Enduring accusations of rape is difficult enough, even if the charges are dismissed in the end.

Source: salon.com, “Why we should protect those accused of rape,” Roy Black, 27 July 2011.