Female Journalists Reluctant to Report Sexual Assault

Remember this past February, when CBS news correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob while filming an episode of “60 Minutes” in Tahrir Square? The assault instantly received widespread media coverage, including Lara’s own segment of “60 Minutes” on which she discussed her experience

But Lara Logan’s case was the exception

A recent report released by The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) examines why Logan’s case is so exceptional: not because female journalists don’t regularly experience sexual abuse, but because they are so unlikely to report it. Since Lara Logan’s attack, the CPJ has interviewed an array of both local and international journalists, finding more than four dozen who had experienced some form of sexual assault and yet, in the vast majority of cases, had never reported it. 

The underreporting of sexual assault applies to all women, regardless of profession. But is a journalist perhaps even less likely to publicize it? 

The interviews conducted by the CPJ came, for many, as a welcome opportunity to share their stories without endangering their careers. When asked why she thought so many women chose to open up in the interviews, Lauren Wolfe, senior editor of the CPJ, said, “It’s like this critical mass of female journalists saying they’re not going to take it anymore — the groping, the intimidation, the threats.”

Women in journalism: a culture of silence? 

But for the four dozen female journalists who reported their assaults to the CPJ, there are thousands more who are still keeping their stories of sexual abuse to themselves. 

“They didn’t want to encourage a situation in which male editors assigning stories might be reluctant to send a woman out in field,” Rodney Pinder, director of the International News Safety Institute, said. “They felt that it might affect them negatively if their employers or their assignment editors felt that they had to be given special care, attention, protection.”

And this makes sense. To get the most in-depth story, a newspaper would want to assign the reporter most likely to brave the most dangerous regions and submit to the most risky situations. 

Female correspondents are naturally targets 

A female reporter’s role as both a journalist and woman makes her doubly vulnerable. Take the case of Lynsey Addario, a New York Times photo journalist who was raped in Libya in March: not only was she a woman in a culture in which women have restricted civil liberties, but she was also a person prying into that culture — asking uncomfortable and difficult questions. 

So when we combine a female journalists’ susceptibility to sexual assault with the competitive journalistic atmosphere dissuading her from reporting it, it seems like news corporations need to start taking some additional precautionary measures to protect their female reporters.

Related Stories: 

Attack on Lara Logan Unleashes Victim-Blaming and Islam-Bashing

CBS Reporter Lara Logan Speaks About Assault in Tahrir Square

I Was a Mob Sex Attack Victim in Tahrir Square… Just Like Lara Logan


Photo credit: Dreamstime


jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

No one should be a natural target. Sexual assault is WRONG!
The fact that Lara Logan stepped forward makes her a heroine.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

"Female correspondents are naturally targets", just about says it all. Women the world over are "naturally targets" because men can get away with sexual abuse on them, in all societies.

Fred H.
Fred H8 years ago

Lika, thanks for your response. (You’re always ready for real dialogue, and that's one of the reasons I like you.)

First, let me go on record: if some woman were raped and then was told, "You're ugly and lucky that some guy would even want you!" (or any incident in that vein), I'd be absolutely horrified. That's awful!

And, the rest of your comment was valid. But, you were referring to on-going relationships where, for example, if you said "No," your husband would have every right to assume that the next time (with better timing), it might be "yes." I was referring to the work of initiating romantic relationships (kissing the FIRST kiss, unbuttoning the FIRST button, etc.). There are many steps, and at each stage, it's traditionally the man who's expected to risk rejection.

In workshops, we sometimes do role-reversals and women experience what it's like to initiate the relationship. My female students report how they started to take on the very qualities that they've criticized men for doing. (They drank more, they paid less attention to what their target was saying, they began lying, not treating “No” for an answer, etc. — you know the list.)

If we want men and women to really understand each other, we have to share the same roles, and initiating relationships is crucial.

Lika S.
Lika P8 years ago

Fred, you bring up interesting points.

Okay, sometimes it is a matter of no, not right now. I guess it's one of these situations of knowing your partner. You obviously don't like to "assume" whether she's in the mood or not, and just take her anyway.

If it helps, I'm usually "in the mood"- and my guy has permission, but it's more of a matter of being taken like he "really wants me". If it were a slap 'em down, type deal, nope. There is a difference, at least to me, between having me like I'm wanted vs. forcing it on. It's hard to explain, but, there is that line.

When ugly women are raped, they are deemed "lucky that a guy wanted her"... Unfair, isn't it?

Frank S.
8 years ago

The problem is within the human mind. There seem to be many men in the world today, whom refuse to acknowledge that women deserve the same amount of respect as they do! This occurs out of both arrogance and ignorance!

Frank Pickens
Frank Pickens8 years ago

Lara is a Hero

Melissa B.
Melissa B8 years ago

thats sad

David Hansen
David Hansen8 years ago

You would think that being on Tv and role models would get them to speak up more not less. Strange.

Fred H.
Fred H8 years ago

Ooops: the end of my previous comment was deleted. It should have read:

the reality is that, you can preach that No means No all you want, but men still learn that No sometimes means no, sometimes means yes, and sometimes means No for right now...but try it again later.

The female chauvinist idea that only men are sexist, only men are the problem, etc. must end before we make genuine progress. Women have changes to make, too. And, one of the biggest is that women need to share the role of initiating relationships. (I've given entire workshops on that, and I don't have the room to go into that here.)

Fred H.
Fred H8 years ago

Jade, you mentioned that you have an issue with the comment I made about "dressing," but I looked through my comments and don't see any mention of "dressing," so I'm not sure what you mean.

Still, I'd like to reply to your suggestion that this (like all problems, according to feminists) is caused by men, that only men have to change, etc. Specifically, you say you want to "see a movement started by MEN to teach boys from an early age that it's NOT an acceptable action under ANY circumstances no matter how mad they are or how they think NO actually means yes!"

I remember very clearly the person who taught me that NO does not actually mean "no." HER name was Judy. We had sparks at first, but then she lost romantic interest. I asked her why, and she was candid. She said I kept asking for her input on what we should do, kept waiting for permission for what I did with her, etc. She said it was a turn-off and I should "be a man -- If you want me, take me." I was shocked but, with the next few girls I dated and for the first time in my life, I didn't take NO for an answer. It worked, Jade! I was more attractive to, and successful with, women than I had ever been in my life.

After awhile, I decided that, even though THEY liked me that way, I didn't like me that way, so I reverted. But, the reality is that, you can preach simplistic notions like No means No all you want, but men still learn from experience that No sometimes means no, sometimes means yes, and sometim