CPJ: More discussion but few changes on sexual violence

By — February 21, 2012

When word went around that a mob had sexually assaulted CBS correspondent and CPJ board member Lara Logan in Cairo's Tahrir Square in February 2011, the media jumped on the specifics: Why was the press release about her assault so precise? Why did it say the attack was "brutal" and "sexual"? What people didn't know was that Logan was more than satisfied with CBS' wording, and relieved that the information was finally public. Waiting a few days, she recently told CPJ, was painful. She was ready to speak immediately, to let the world know that her sexual assault was an attack not just on her body but also on the press, and that she would not only survive it but continue her work, unbroken.

"Your silence is like denial," Logan said, adding that CBS had delayed the news release to allow her to physically recover a little and fly to the United States. She said that she never considered concealing what had happened from her viewers and that she could not have asked for more from her employer. "The single most important thing a company can do is stand behind a journalist," she said. "If my boss had questioned what I was wearing, that would have broken me."

Logan's assault was not entirely unusual--CPJ uncovered a number of serious sexual assaults or rapes of journalists in its June report "The Silencing Crime"--but her disclosure and her employer's supportive response were. Since that attack, awareness and sensitivity to sexual violence against journalists have increased in the news industry, with managers in particular expressing a desire to provide help to reporters and photographers on assignment, a CPJ follow-up survey has found. Still, for the most part, the profession lacks training programs that address the risks in a meaningful way.

(To read the rest of this article, please click over to the Committee to Protect Journalists. To read my in-depth CPJ report on sexualized violence and journalists, "The Silencing Crime," click here.)