“When women are harassed … they’re denied an equal place in that society. Public spaces don’t belong to them. Men control it. It reaffirms the oppressive role of men in the society.”
This powerful quote is by CBS News correspondent Lara Logan from her interview for The New York Times yesterday.
On Feb. 11, Logan, who was in Cairo covering the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government, was sexually assaulted by a mob of at least 200 men across a 25 minute period.
Logan’s attack was not made public for several days and even then, we learned very little about what happened to her. Still, her story immediately focused international attention on the rampant problem of sexual harassment and assault in Egypt and to the dangers many female journalists face while on the job.
Logan will talk at length about what happened to her on Feb. 11, during a “60 Minutes” segment on Sunday. I plan to watch it. Already from reading the New York Times interview I have a better understanding of what she faced. Please note the rest of this post may be triggering.
Via The New York Times:
“There was a moment that everything went wrong,” she recalled.
As the cameraman, Richard Butler, was swapping out a battery, Egyptian colleagues who were accompanying the camera crew heard men nearby talking about wanting to take Ms. Logan’s pants off. She said: “Our local people with us said, ‘We’ve gotta get out of here.’ That was literally the moment the mob set on me.”
Mr. Butler, Ms. Logan’s producer, Max McClellan, and two locally hired drivers were “helpless,” Mr. Jeff Fager [the chairperson of CBS News] said, “because the mob was just so powerful.”…They estimated that they were separated from her for about 25 minutes.
“My clothes were torn to pieces,” Ms. Logan said.
She declined to go into more detail about the assault but said: “What really struck me was how merciless they were. They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence.”
After being rescued by a group of civilians and Egyptian soldiers, she was swiftly flown back to the United States. “She was quite traumatized, as you can imagine, for a period of time,” Mr. Fager said. Ms. Logan said she decided almost immediately that she would speak out about sexual violence both on behalf of other journalists and on behalf of “millions of voiceless women who are subjected to attacks like this and worse.”
What an utterly horrific experience and what bravery she has shown in the aftermath as she struggles to heal and recover.
Understandably, Logan said she will not give any more interviews on the topic after the “60 Minutes” segment because she doesn’t want the traumatic crime to define her.
Something Logan said near the end of the New York Times interview struck me. She noted she did not know about the levels of harassment and abuse that women in Egypt and other countries regularly experience. That surprises me given how much media attention street harassment in Egypt has received for at least three years since the release of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights report stating 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women experience street harassment.
How was that stark information not part of the background research or briefing she received or conducted before going on this assignment? How can all reporters accurately report on issues without that kind of culture context and how else can female reporters prepare themselves for how they may be treated by the men they encounter?
I’m regularly reminded by something someone will say or something I read – such as this article – just how much education and awareness about street harassment is necessary.
Really, for so many people, we have to get basic with this issue and focus on awareness and education before we will be successful at prevention methods. If no one knows or believes there is a problem, no one will be willing to do anything about it and nothing will change.
So let’s keep speaking out and informing our circle of friends and family members and our communities that public places are not safe and welcoming for women, but that they should be.