Lara Logan’s Courage
Last night, I, as well as millions of other women sat on the edge of our seats as we listened to the Emmy award-winning CBS journalist tell the harrowing story of her sexual assault in Cairo. I clearly remember watching the footage of that celebration in Tahrir Square on February 11, thinking that this was a shining moment for humanity at large, not just Egyptians, never believing that that particular moment in history could be sullied by something like this. But when the news first came out about the assault, it was not widely talked about, having been overshadowed by the jubilance surrounding Egypt’s independence. Having visited Egypt three times in the past, I was very aware of the problems that Egyptian society has had with sexual violence, and was keenly disappointed that not more attention was brought to the attack on Lara Logan. When the announcement was made that she was ready to tell her story in her own voice, I felt extremely grateful for her candor and courage.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Lara shows great poise, not mincing words or using euphemisms for her experience. She talks about how the mob of more than 200 men tried to tear her limb from limb and in her own words “raped her with their hands,” for more than twenty-five minutes. She endured this assault after being separated from the protection of six men, including a local Egyptian fixer, her producer, the cameraman, two Egyptian drivers that acted as security, and a former Special Forces bodyguard, which shows the brutal force of the mob attacking her. Only when the mob dragged her into a fence, and she fell into a group of Egyptian woman, and then was finally carried out by Egyptian soldiers did she escape further assault.
Immediately upon news of the attack, there were those who asked what she was doing in that situation, somehow insinuating that she had no place there. But Lara Logan, named CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent in 2008, has reported from some of the world’s most dangerous combat zones, including Zimbabwe, Kosovo, Angola, Mozambique, Gaza, the West Bank, and the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has been intrepid throughout her career, and has been committed to giving others a voice in the midst of conflict. The fact that she was able to speak so openly about her life-threatening experience should give other women hope in similar circumstances. While my own experience of assault on the subway does not even approach what Lara went through, I can speak from personal experience and say that being able to express what happened to you is not only cathartic, but is profoundly helpful to so many women who are told to keep their mouths shut and live in shame for what was done to them.
Around the same time as Lara’s assault, another woman, a Canadian tourist, was raped in the back of a taxi cab in Cairo, and upon her return home, she was told not to speak about it. This is unacceptable. How are we to heal, and own every part of our experience, without turning in on ourselves? How are we going to open society’s eyes and thereby bring about a change in the way women are viewed ~ not still as chattel, but as equals? Monkey see no evil… It’s time to lift up the rotting log in the forest of misogyny, and see what lies beneath.
It must have been an uncomfortable experience for the viewers of 60 Minutes last night to hear about such a terrifying experience, in graphic detail. But I for one appreciated this bare-bones honesty ~ Lara made no effort at covering up what happened to her, and because of this, she was able to literally bring into people’s homes the brutal reality of sexual assault. She mentions how her female colleagues thanked her for breaking her silence, because usually “women never complain about incidents of sexual violence, because you don’t want someone to say, “Well, women shouldn’t be out there.” In fact, there were those in the media and in academia who immediately jumped on the victim-blaming bandwagon, including right here in New York City.
Nir Rosen, a fellow at NYU’s Center on Law and Security, had to resign his fellowship because of wildly offensive comments he made on Twitter, belittling the seriousness of the attack on Logan. Even during his apology, he said that the comments were just meant to be a joke between friends, which is perhaps even more disturbing.
Simone Wilson of LA Weekly felt the need to point out her Lara Logan’s physical attractiveness and rumored sexual history, leading the “report” with one of Logan’s glamour shots. Besides being unforgivably tacky and insensitive, Wilson’s response shows the persistent misunderstanding by many that sexual assault is somehow motivated by sexual desire, merely akin to how a man would approach someone he found attractive for a date. This is simply not the case, as women and girls have been subjected to sexual assault at all ages, in all manner of dress, at all times of day and night, in isolated surroundings, and as in Logan’s case, in dense crowds.
Nir Rosen and Simone Wilson join the ranks of victim-blamers everywhere, but I can tell you with some relief, that their odious views have been roundly censured by everyone with a conscience. I send my warmest thanks and support out to Lara Logan, who has given a voice of empowerment to every woman who has survived sexual violence.