Horrible news today: CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan was attacked and sexually assaulted in Cairo last week. CBS released the following statement:
In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.
There will be no further comment from CBS News and Correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.
The exact identity of Logan’s attackers or her rescuers were is still unclear but this news, while horrifying, should not be entirely shocking. Numerous journalists have been detained and attacked in Egypt in recent days, and unfortunately, sexual assaults on women at political demonstrations is not unusual in Egypt. It’s a society where sexual harassment and assault by men in the street is common and unpunished, and sexual violence has used by the police and military as a punishment for women activists. Human rights groups in Egypt have spoken up about this in the past.
The comments on every news website I’ve seen, from NPR to CNN to the Washington Post, are chock-full of remarks that range from paternalistic hand-wringing to victim-blaming to outright racism, often blended together: “What do you expect when you’re a woman reporting in a war zone?” Or “CBS, how could you send a pretty blond woman to a place full of violent brown men?”
All the “War zone journalism is too dangerous for women” hand-wringing is simply chauvinist bullshit. Lara Logan is the chief international news correspondent for CBS. She was a professional who was well-aware of the risks (she had been detained and roughed up by army officers earlier in her visit). Both foreign and Egyptian journalists have suffered serious injuries in the recent demonstrations. Perhaps if Lara Logan had been male, she would not have been raped, but only perhaps—male protestors and journalists are not immune to sexual assault (for example, the rape of male dissidents and journalists in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison has been well-documented). To imply that Lara Logan should have stayed home out of fear she’d be attacked—sexually or otherwise—is an insult to her professionalism and bravery. By that logic no women should be sent to do their jobs anywhere there are men who might attack them. Which means…oh yeah! We stay at home! Where we belong! So no one soils our purity!
Many journalists, including women, have been victims of violence in Egypt since the protests began. If Lara Logan is the first to be sexually assaulted, I’d be surprised. I salute her for going public with the sexual nature of the attack as well—it would be easy to hide or downplay it in order to escape the inevitable victim-blaming and prurient coverage that’s resulted. I’m sure there are many who wish that she’d done so for p.r. reasons. But by bearing witness to it on the world stage, she refuses to be silent, either about her own experience or about the risks of her profession. I send out every possible prayer for her recovery.