Do publication bans on victims of sexual assault re-victimize them?

Anesthesiologist George Doodnaught (r) with his defence lawyer Brain Greenspan. Dr. Doodnaught has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting 21 female patients while they were undergoing surgery. He will find out this morning whether he will be granted bail pending his appeal. (CBC)

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After Dr. George Doodnaught was convicted of sexually assaulting 21 female patients, two women fought for and won the right to be public. Publication bans in cases of sexual assault are usually imposed in an almost blanket policy to protect the victim. But some women say that perpetuates the view that they should be ashamed.

"It leaves me nameless and faceless. George Doodnaught who I absolutely refuse to call a doctor ... doctors do not do what he did .. gets away with unknown victims."

Eli Brooks, one of the women who's testimony has resulted in the conviction of George Doodnaught, says she wants her name to be public

A Toronto anesthesiologist faces ten years in prison for crimes that defy belief. Dr. George Doodnaught was sentenced last week for sexually assaulting 21 women - all patients -- while they were semiconscious on an operating table.

George Doodnaught is familiar in the Toronto area because of the crimes' notoriety -- but his victims are nameless... faceless. That's because of a publication ban that prevents the media from identifying the victims and prevents the victims from publicly identifying themselves. The ban's been lifted for two of the women, at their request.

Eli Brooks and Debra Dreise are now free to discuss their ordeal and other aspects of the case publicly. Neither woman asked for a publication ban -- neither was notified a ban was in place. Eli Brooks joined us in our Toronto studio.


Lifting the publication ban was clearly important for Eli Brooks, but many women feel the need to stay anonymous.

To unpack some of the nuances around this, we were joined by two guests in our studio:

  • Lisa Taylor is a lawyer and journalism professor at Ryerson University.

  • Mary Lou Fassel is Director of Legal Services at the Barbra Schlifer Clinic -- which provides support from legal assistance, to counselling, to language assistance, to victims of violence.

What are your thoughts on publication bans? Should the courts assume sexual assault victims want their identities protected? Add your voice to this discussion.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien and Catherine Kalbfleisch.

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