On February 11th, CBS reporter Lara Logan was sexually assaulted and beaten in the Tahrir Square mob. She was rescued by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers and flown home the next day to recover. Instead of focusing on rape culture or the damaging physical and psychological consequences of sexual assault, most media outlets chose to blame Logan for her attack. While Salon had an insightful blog post describing the blatant victim blaming and ignorance of rape culture prevalent in most news coverage of the assault and commented on the coverage of other news sources [like LA Weekly that wrote a blogpost entitled “Lara Logan, CBS Reporter and Warzone ‘It Girl’, Raped Repeatedly Amid Egypt Celebration” where writer Simone Wilson discusses Logan’s looks and “ballsy” personality before even describing the attack itself] few other news outlets have been as fair, choosing the tired path (tired for those of us who work in this field) of blaming the victim for their assault.
News sources like The New York Post opted to chronicle Logan’s active sex life, a topic which always seems to emerge, despite its irrelevancy, when an attractive woman is assaulted. And other commentators like fellow journalist [a journalist who has covered the Iraq War, where one would imagine, he has been in his share of dangerous situations when his own physical safety had been threatened] Nir Rosen a former fellow at NYU’s Center for Law and Security maintain that women often use sexual assault as a way to get attention or sympathy or to escape the consequences of their actions. Rosen Tweeted: “It’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at the attention she’ll get”. Despite a later apology, Rosen’s actions (whether intentional or not) perpetuated the idea that reporting sexual assault is a tactic women use to seek attention, rather than a mechanism for healing from a trauma and taking back control in a situation where all power and control has been stripped from them. And, in yet another offensive manifestation of this story, Debbie Shlussel, a conservative political commentator and radio talk show host stated (after her comments about the assault occurring in a “country of savages”) “[T]oo bad Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is about. Now she knows…How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the ‘liberation.”‘
The underlying message of statements from Schlussel, Rosen and others is that Logan had this assault coming [Schlussel’s is additionally troubling given its blatant xenophobic and racist nature]. Few people told Anderson Cooper that he should have known what he was in for after his assault in Egypt in early February for for doing his job of reporting the news. If anything, the public viewed him in a light of admiration for being willing to sacrifice so much for a cause he believed in reporting on. No matter what Logan’s occupation or political beliefs, she has a right to safety and respect for her body, just as Cooper has, even if they both have chosen careers that have the potential to put themselves into situations which are life threatening. After that right was violated, it is hardly appropriate to blame Logan career and political affiliations for the assault.
It was incredibly brave of Logan to bring her story to the public eye, however not every survivor feels comfortable doing so because of the unfair and unacceptable stigma surrounding sexual assault and relationship violence. If you are a survivor and want your story to be told, consider submitting it to Project Dinah’s “Speak Out!” blog anonymously.