Jun 7 2011 11:38 AM
The very public sexual assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo earlier this year has brought what was once a hidden issue into sharp focus. Now, in a special report by Lauren Wolfe, senior editor of the Committee to Protect Journalists, news professionals speak out on the sexual crimes they have suffered, either in retaliation for their work or during the course of their reporting.
Here's a look at the findings:
Over the past four months, CPJ has interviewed more than four dozen journalists who have undergone varying degrees of sexual violence—from rape by multiple attackers to aggressive groping—either in retaliation for their work or during the course of their reporting. They include 27 local journalists, from top editors to beat reporters, working in regions from the Middle East to South Asia, Africa to the Americas. Five described being brutally raped, while others reported various levels of sexual assault, aggressive physical harassment, and threats of sexual violence. A similar range of experience was reported by 25 international journalists; two reported being raped, five others described serious sexual violation—ranging from violent, sexual touching, to penetration by hands—and 22 said they had been groped multiple times. Most of the reported attacks occurred within the past five years, although a small number of cases date back as far as two decades.
Many of the assaults fall into three general types: targeted sexual violation of specific journalists, often in reprisal for their work; mob-related sexual violence against journalists covering public events; and sexual abuse of journalists in detention or captivity. Although women constitute the large majority of victims overall, male journalists have also been victimized, most often while incaptivity or detention.
Jenny Nordberg, a New York-based Swedish correspondent, described an assault she endured in 2007 while covering the return of Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan:
“It's embarrassing, and you feel like an idiot saying anything, especially when you are reporting on much, much greater horrors,” Nordberg wrote to CPJ in February. “But it still stays with you. I did not tell the editors for fear of losing assignments. That was definitely part of it. And I just did not want them to think of me as a girl. Especially when I am trying to be equal to, and better than, the boys. I may have told a female editor though, had I had one.”
Without support, Nordberg said, she turned a critical eye on herself – highlighting the need for greater awareness on the part of news managers and for better safety training for journalists in the field. The report – and CPJ's updated Security Guide, which contains new information on how to deal with sexual aggression, will keep the conversation going in newsrooms and in the field.
Read the report in its entirety here.
Read the CPJ Security Guide: Addendum on sexual aggression here.
Listen to Lauren Wolfe's audio report, "The Silencing Crime" here.
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