Lara Logan’s 60 Minutes interview renews attention to journalists sexually assaulted on the job

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Osama bin Laden’s death dominated headlines in the media world Sunday night and Monday, and rightfully so. But there was other media news that was overshadowed as a result.

I’m thinking in particular of Lara Logan’s courageous 60 Minutes interview, in which she recounted what happened to her while covering the protests in Egypt. A mob of 200 to 300 men surrounded her, she said. They ripped her pants to shreds and tried to tear off chunks of her scalp. They beat her with flag poles and sticks and raped her.

“There was no doubt in my mind that I was in the process of dying,” Logan told 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley. “I thought not only am I going to die, but it’s going to be just a torturous death that’s going to go on forever.”

Logan has chosen to break what she calls "the code of silence."

Logan is one of many journalists who have been sexually assaulted while on the job, but she’s one of the few who have spoken out about it. Many women remain silent about their attacks, sometimes fearing that they’ll be told they can no longer report in conflict areas if they step forward.

“Women never complain about incidents of sexual violence because you don’t want someone to say, ‘Well, women shouldn’t be out there,’ ” Logan told Pelley. “But I think there are a lot of women who experience these kinds of things as journalists and they don’t want it to stop their job, because they do it for the same reasons as me — they are committed to what they do. They are not adrenaline junkies you know, they’re not glory hounds, they do it because they believe in being journalists.”

Lauren Wolfe, senior editor at the Committee to Protect Journalists, is hoping that Logan’s decision to break the silence will inspire others to do the same. Wolfe is working on a lengthy piece about journalists who are assaulted while on the job, and hopes to find out more about the stigma around reporting assaults.

Wolfe, who plans to finish the piece in the next couple of weeks, has interviewed journalists in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan and South Africa.

“I talked to women who experienced constant groping. I spoke to women who were raped in the course of their reporting or in retribution for their reporting,” Wolfe said in a phone interview. “It’s been really interesting, for me at least, to see how many people want to tell me their stories — how many people say they think it’s important that we get a picture of this issue.”

You can read more about this issue in a related Poynter.org story I wrote on Sunday. I care deeply about this issue and plan to continue writing more about it as news develops.

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