The Courage Not To Remain Silent: Many are following the news coverage of CBS correspondent Lara Logan who was sexually assaulted when separated from her crew during the celebrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last Friday. Controversy has ensued and comments range from outrage, support, mockery and questions regarding the release to the media of a rape victim’s name. Blame the victim mentality has reared its ugly head which is at the historic core of female abuse worldwide.
In an Op Ed piece in The New York Times today, Kim Barker, herself a foreign war correspondent, articulates the conflict that women journalists face. She cites statistics from “The Committee to Protect Journalists that show that 44 journalists from around the world were killed last year because of their work, but the group doesn’t keep data on sexual assault and rape. Most journalists just don’t report it.” Why? They want to be where the news is, not sidelined because they are women. That is one answer. Another?
Shame and Blame: Females of all ages across the world struggle with the shame and blame of sexual harassment and assault. As Kim Barker stresses, we need women reporters to cover wars and crisis in dangerous places to report back on those very issues. What woman from a repressed society will describe the sordid details of abuse to a male journalist? Few. Who better than the mother of a missing son suspected of being tortured and possibly dead could evoke the agony of such a plight? It is the courage of women facing danger who knock down the walls of ignorance to liberate their sisters. Frequently silenced, often not believed, fearful of retribution, girls and women have chosen to bury their story and often from those closest to them, their families and partners.
What is So Shameful About Being Sexually Violated? Last on a list of personal data shared with potential partners or friends, if ever, yet sweeping in its impact, women historically have been made to feel responsible for the abuse. In the case of Lara Logan, an attractive 39-year-old mom, implications that she has been using her attractiveness for gain have followed her career for years. Therefore, when she suffers a violent, terrifying attack, “she asked for it” may be an easy out for those who cannot cope with the reality of male sexual violence. Ms. Lara was saved by Egyptian women who pulled her from the attackers.
In my post “Women are Frightened and Men are Not Listening” I touch upon the disconnect in the Coupledom when women are scared for themselves or their daughters and the men dismiss or play down the threat. If the world and the Coupledom were better able to acknowledge that this is a common evil, that true female victims exist and that shame and blame need to be eviscerated from the discussion as a festering sore, than perhaps the message from the male partner would be, “Hey, I believe you. I am not a woman and what you sense or have experienced is something I need to hear, learn from you and offer whatever would be helpful and useful to you, to our daughters, to our sons.”
If the Lara Logan experience can “out” this conversation, what a powerful and sweeping impact that would have for women the world around.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011