It was revealed this week that Lara Logan, an high profile SA-born journalist working for the US broadcasting company, CBS, was subjected to a ‘brutal and sustained sexual assault’ and beating whilst covering the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. She found herself separated from her crew and was set upon by a mob of up to 200 men, in an attack which lasted almost half an hour but undoubtedly felt much longer. She was eventually rescued by a group of Egyptian women and soldiers and was flown back to the US where she was hospitalised. She has since been discharged and is now recovering at home in Washington with her family: her husband and her two year-old son.
What is almost as shocking (but perhaps, sadly, not surprising) about Lara Logan’s terrifying experience is the response that has emerged from the global journalistic community. Disturbingly, some of her American peers have come under fire for remarks that turn the blame for the attack on Logan herself, and paint her as an attention seeking, risk-taking ‘war-mongerer’.
Nir Rosen, a high profile freelance war journalist, resigned from his New York University fellowship this week as a consequence of the ‘jokes’ he made regarding Logan’s attack on Twitter. These comments included saying that Logan ‘was probably just groped like thousands of other women’ and claimed that she simply wanted to ‘outdo’ Anderson Cooper, a male journalist that had been punched and kicked by another mob previously. After a backlash, Rosen provided a half-hearted apology, saying: ‘Ah f*** it, I apologize for being insensitive, it’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.’ 24 hours later, under pressure, Rosen issued a formal apology, resigned from his fellowship post and withdrew his remarks, claiming that his comments were ‘private jokes’ intended for only a small group of people.
Worse still were the comments made by Debbie Schlussel, a conservative political commentator, on her blog titled ‘Islam fan Lara Logan gets a taste of Islam’, where she made these incredibly ignorant and offensive remarks – towards both Muslims and Logan herself: ‘Lara Logan was among the chief cheerleaders of this ‘revolution’ by animals. Now she knows what Islamic revolution is really all about. So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. Hope you’re enjoying therevolution, Lara!’
These astounding sweeping remarks not only paint all Muslims as ‘animals’ but point the finger of blame for the assault squarely at Logan herself for daring to do her job despite knowing the ‘risks’. Considering that in the US, where Logan and Schlussel reside, 1 in 6 women will be raped in their lifetime, and where a sexual assault occurs every 2 minutes, one could argue that to simply be a woman, anywhere is ‘risky’.
Unfortunately for women, rape and sexual assault cut across all borders, ethnicities, and religions, and to claim otherwise is both ignorant and hypocritical. Sadly, however, rape myths are all too pervasive, and these have popped up again and again on media message-boards in the US, where people have again pointed the finger of blame on Logan, who’s striking blonde looks (she is a former swimwear model) have been pinpointed as the reason behind her attack.
She is undeniably beautiful: a petite blonde who does not look her 40 years. But this has no impact on her attack – sexual assault and rape are not to do with sexual attraction but rather a desire to impose power, control and cruelty over someone else. In addition, questions have been raised over the suitability of female foreign correspondents reporting from any zone deemed ‘dangerous’. Unfortunately, Logan’s experience is not an isolated one: Judith Matcloff, a friend of Logan’s and experienced correspondent herself stated that ‘it comes with the territory’ and that Logan’s experience has made such headlines because ‘female journalists tend not to come forward about these things’. They are fearful that they would be seen as a liability due to their gender and that their editors might not be willing to send them on certain assignments. For women at the pinnacle of their career, that is not an option.
Additionally, the judgement that might be levelled at them for their ‘risk-taking’ is both sharp and plentiful. Logan has been heavily criticised for putting herself on the line when she is a mother with a two-year old child at home. Conversely, the many male foreign correspondents who are fathers and husbands and also face danger in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are held up as heroic in their quest to bear witness to events around the world. Logan’s assault has highlighted how pervasive sexist attitudes and rape myths remain in the media: sadly unsurprising, even in the 21st Century. On the other hand, Logan, who herself signed off on the CBS report detailing her attack, must be admired for her tenacity and determination to speak out despite the judgement and risk to her career she must have been aware she was opening herself up to.