Last week NBC News jumped off the Empire State Building. So The New York Times, like any thoughtful toddler, did the same.

The woman who filed a complaint of rape against William Kennedy Smith has been identified after a week in which repeated questions have been raised in print about her actions and character.The Times' explanation for its decision to publish her name was that NBC News had done it the night before.

The practice of not publishing rape victims' names is intended to encourage more women to come forward, secure in the knowledge that their names and photographs won't be plastered all over the papers and their reputations slammed.

What possible purpose does it serve to publish the name of a woman complaining of rape?

In fact, it may do a great deal of good - if the woman is willing. I was raped in 1974. I wrote about it. I've talked about it.

I've received hundreds of calls from women saying that it helped them to see another woman who was not ashamed.

But it is one thing for women to encourage one other to stand up and stand tall. It is another for any news organization to substitute its judgment for the victim's - to decide that selling papers is more important than humiliating this woman.

Of course, the alleged rapist has no protection. His name is printed. And if he is a Kennedy, he is dragged through the mud.

But this hardly supports a decision to heap equal humiliation on a woman who is, after all, not under investigation for having committed a felony.

Two years ago, in an incident that received even more publicity than this one, a young woman was raped and beaten while jogging in Central Park. Her name was printed in one newspaper, The Amsterdam News; but neither NBC nor The New York Times found it necessary to follow suit.

As recently as last month, in reporting on the sentencing of the remaining defendants in the jogger case, The Times adhered to its policy of not publishing victims' names.

Has so much changed in the past month?

Or could it be that the difference is that the rape in Central Park was not a date rape by one man but a gang rape; not an acquaintance rape, but a rape by strangers; that an investment banker jogging alone in Central Park is a more deserving victim than a working-class girl who climbed up the social ladder and went for drinks at a man's home at 3:30 a.m.?

The publicity surrounding the Palm Beach incident makes all too painfully clear that acquaintance rape is still not considered to be a real rape.

The right question in rape cases is not what she did wrong, but what he did; not what she's done in the past, or with whom, but what happened that night; not what she thought, but what he did.

Did he use force or the threat of force?

Did they have sexual intercourse?

Did he know or care that she was not consenting?

If the police find probable cause to believe the answer to these questions is yes, then they should charge rape; if not, then they should not.

(Susan Estrich, professor of law at University of Southern California, is author of "Real Rape.")