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Rep. Giddings should be held accountable, advocates say

“Without a guarantee of privacy, most survivors will never, ever report,” Doe's lawyer said of sexual assault victims' need for privacy.
Credit: Idaho Legislature

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's Note: This article was originally published by The Idaho Press.

A crowd of about 60 people gathered Monday on the steps of the Statehouse to call for Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, to be held accountable for sharing the personal details of the 19-year-old who accused former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, of raping her at his Boise apartment.

Von Ehlinger resigned April 29 following a House Ethics and Policy Committee hearing, where he was found to have engaged in behavior “unbecoming” of a representative. The Boise Police Department is investigating the accusation; no charges have been brought.

Unless the accuser wants to be named, the Idaho Press does not typically publish the name of those who report sexual assault. She went by “Jane Doe” during the committee hearing.

Prior to the hearing, Giddings twice published a link to a blog that named the 19-year-old. Jane Doe’s photograph and other personal information have since circulated, causing local advocacy groups to call for the Legislature, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Air Force Reserve to hold Giddings accountable and remove her from leadership roles.

In addition to her role as a state representative, Giddings serves as a major in the Air Force Reserve and as Idaho state director of admissions for the Air Force Academy and ROTC.

The ACLU of Idaho on Monday sent a petition containing nearly 6,000 signatures to leadership of the Idaho House of Representatives calling on Giddings to resign, as well as for the Legislature to file a formal complaint and open an ethics investigation if she refuses.

RELATED: Idaho lawmaker who doxxed alleged rape victim now running for lieutenant governor

“Representative Giddings doxxed 19-year-old intern Jane Doe, publicly sharing the survivor’s name and photo with constituents using her state email address and server,” wrote the organization in a Facebook post. “This is unacceptable and she must be held accountable.”

Groups including the Idaho 97 Project, which participated alongside the ACLU and the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence in Monday’s rally, hosted by the Idaho Female Veterans Network, have urged members of the public to contact leadership at Idaho’s House of Representatives and the U.S. Air Force Reserve, as well as the Air Force Inspector General’s hotline, to express their concerns regarding Giddings’ role in doxxing the 19-year-old.

Doxxing refers to the act of sharing someone’s private personal information online.

Giddings did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

At the rally, former U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Caitlin Lister said, “Imagine with me if you will: (a) young airman is raped by her colleague one night and she’s scared to death to go to work the next day because she knows he’ll be there at work. That’s how it is in the military; he’s there the next day.

“She decides to report the incident, but the person she has to report to is Maj. Priscilla Giddings, the legislator who just doxxed and humiliated a 19-year-old survivor and got away with it.”

Lister is a member of the Idaho Female Veterans Network, founded by Erin Dominguez, a Boise State University graduate and U.S. Army veteran, who is herself a survivor of sexual assault. Dominguez emphasized how pervasive the experience of being sexually assaulted is among female soldiers.

“What leaders like mine did to me, and what Maj. Priscilla Giddings did to Jane Doe, is unfathomable,” Dominguez said. “It is unfathomable that 57 soldiers will have been sexually assaulted today, another 57 tomorrow, and 57 every day.”

Dominguez read from an article about Pvt. Nicole Burnham, 21, who died by suicide after she was reportedly held down against her will by multiple male soldiers at Camp Casey in South Korea in 2017, then was assaulted again two months after the first.Lister added, “From day one of military service we are taught to look out for our fellow service members by exhibiting exemplary leadership skills. We do this because in a combat situation, you can’t take time to wonder if the men and women to your right and left are going to have your back. Your life literally depends upon it.“The way Jane Doe was treated by Maj. Giddings is possibly the most appalling thing I can think of, both as a former marine and the mother of a 19-year-old woman,” she said. “While Jane Doe does not serve in the military, thousands of 19-year-old women do. Those women deserve true leadership. They deserve an officer who exhibits integrity and common decency.”

“What about the ones we don’t know about? This cannot continue to happen,” Martinez said.

Annie Hightower, who served as co-counsel for Jane Doe and is director of law and policy at the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, spoke of her own sexual assault and the thoughts running through her head when she decided to speak about it 10 years later.

“For people who experience sexual violence, privacy is one of their greatest needs. Without a guarantee of privacy, most survivors will never, ever report,” Hightower said. “Reporting isn’t about justice. It’s not about them. At the most, reporting can provide some form of accountability. … Rep. Priscilla Giddings’ treatment of Jane Doe highlights why survivors don’t report.”

The distribution of Jane Doe’s pictures and personal information was dangerous not just to Jane Doe but to “every survivor who watched this process play out confirming why they never reported to anyone in the first place,” Hightower said.

Jane Doe, who spoke with Hightower 20 minutes before the rally, said through her attorney that “she is committed to changing processes to make the Statehouse a better place for everyone to show up for years to come.”

“She also wants you to know that she is getting the help she needs to be the best she can for her friends and family, and that her thoughts are here today with all the other survivors. She sees you, she hears you, she believes you,” Hightower said.

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