While covering the uprising in Egypt against President Hosni Mubarak, Lara Logan was separated from her camera crew and brutally raped and beaten by several hundred men. The story of her sexual assault and her decision to come forward brought attention to the unique threats women journalists face in conflict zones. In going public about her assault, Logan ended decades of silence on the part of women journalists who've endured such abuse but were fearful of losing their assignments if they spoke up.
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After months of grassroots protests against the oppressive rule of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his resignation on Friday, February 11, 2011, triggered a tidal wave of response across Egypt. Mubarak's overthrow was joyously celebrated in the streets of Cairo, and Tahrir Square -- the scene of massive protests against his regime -- was ground zero for the celebration. Lara Logan, who'd been in Egypt covering the uprisings, was in Tahrir Square not only with her production team but also a security force. Yet when an angry mob of more than 200 men surrounded them, her colleagues were unable to stop the men from carrying off Logan. She was savagely beaten, sexually abused, and was saved just in time by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers who brought her to safety. The incidents surrounding Logan's horrific abuse brought to light an infrequently-discussed issue faced by female journalists -- how to cover event in war-torn areas and conflict zones and face the threat of rape and sexual assault without seeming to be weaker and more vulnerable than their male colleagues.
You'd think a woman beaten and assaulted by hundreds of men while she went about doing her job would be deserving of sympathy, compassion and respect, wouldn't you? Yet when word got out about CBS correspondent Lara Logan's violation in Tahrir Square, several media outlets were quick to criticize her physical appearance and career choices as reasons why she was raped. Among the worst comments were those published by the LA Weekly blog, which described her "shocking good looks" and labeled her a "blonde reporter," and "War Zone 'It Girl.'" Statements such as these promote the concept of the "rape myth" in which the victim is at fault for her own abuse and deserves what she got.
Headlines in Australia and Canada about rape and rape victims -- and examples of unsympathetic coverage of Lara Logan's assault -- prompted Sheela Raja, a clinical psychologist specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder, to say, "I've been horrified by some of the comments I've read--declarations about Lara Logan's looks, her previous sexual history, her choice of profession. The irrelevant information seems to have no bounds...." In addition to Logan's story, other articles reveal the depth and widespread reach of rape myths and how they reduce empathy for victims.
In late April 2011, nearly two months after her assault in Egypt, Lara Logan broke her silence to speak with the New York Times
and the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes
about the terrifying ordeal. In a conversation with Scott Pelley, she explained that as the mob surged around her, "I thought, not only am I going to die here, but it's going to be just a torturous death that's going to go on forever and ever and ever." Logan also described why she knew she had to go public about what happened because she didn't intend "to carry the burden alone, like my dirty little secret, something that I had to be ashamed of."
The criticism Logan was subjected to in the aftermath of her attack in Egypt was disturbing, but as previous media coverage indicates, Logan has long been a target of specific media outlets. Although her credentials are significant and extensive, her physical attractiveness and her personal life have made her the focus of tabloids eager to play up her looks and gloss over her abilities. The scrutiny Logan has had to endure through out her career is indicative of the double-standard that still exists in journalism, as few of her male colleagues have been subjected to this kind of gender bias.