When CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted and beaten in Egypt last week, the response from both members of the media and laypersons was unfortunately par for the course when it comes to rape victims. The most notorious remarks came from fellow war correspondent Nir Rosen, who lost a prestigious fellowship at NYU after a series of Tweets in which he mocked the situation (he later claimed that he didn’t know the severity of the assault and apologized for his remarks).From the moment I became aware of Logan’s attack, I braced myself for the ensuing expressions of anti-Muslim rhetoric, as well as the thoughts of those who would blame the journalist for being in the middle of the post-Mubarak celebrations in the first place. The Guardian’s Michael Tomasky pointed out the words of right-wing blogger Debbie Schlussel, who not only blamed Logan for putting her own safety at risk, but also highlighted the attack as evidence of the ‘real’ Islam:So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. Or so we’d hope. But in the case of the media vis-a-vis Islam, that’s a hope that’s generally unanswered. This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled. Now that’s all gone. How fitting that Lara Logan was “liberated” by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the “liberation.”
Stay classy, Debbie.
The Islamaphobia that this case highlights is absurd.There are close to 200,000 sexual assaults reported in the United States each year, a country that is over 75% Christian identity. We can’t allow people like Schussel to continue qualifying any actions taken by persons in a primarily Muslim country as “Muslim activity” or representative of Islam’s true tenets, no more than we can look at the crime that takes place in this country as “true Christian behavior”. The Michigan-based blogger is hardly along in her thoughts; if you peek at the news websites that covered Logan’s assault, many of the comments are in the same vein. Some go as far as to blame CBS for sending an attractive White woman into Egypt at a time like this, as if the men of Egypt (you know, Africans) can’t be trusted with such temptation.
Alas, Logan did get sexually assaulted by Egyptian men. And we probably would not have heard about it but for the fact that she’s a Western journalist (she’s actually South African, and these are probably the only circumstances under which a sexual assault on an African woman would make headlines). But that doesn’t mean that she asked for it, that she should be blamed for what happened to her. Logan was a professional journalist doing her job and regardless of what one’s feelings are about ‘nosy’ reporters and arrogant Westerners poking around, the punishment for her presence shouldn’t be sexual assault.
Many of you reading this who have been sexually assaulted can likely attest to being interrogated, doubted or flat out accused of lying by police, classmates, friends or even family members. There’s a frightening sentiment out there amongst many men (and even some women) that the rape laws have provided women the opportunity to trap innocent men…and that we are taking advantage of that fact en masse. While there are certainly cases of women who have lied about being raped, statistics show that most sexual assaults actually go unreported. The US Department of Justice estimates that only 26% of rapes and attempted rapes are reported. And once an assault has been proven real, the questions over what a woman may have done to provoke it begin.
Sexual assault is the the crime that keeps on taking, with many victims suffering as a result for many, many years. Flashbacks, depression, sexual problems, suicide…rape is no small incident in a woman’s (or man’s) life. And yet, here we are, watching Logan emerge from such a harrowing experience, in the public eye to boot. This story is getting a lot of press because of Logan’s job and the time in which it happened; however, women are sexually assaulted each day, from Egypt to Englewood, Israel to Iowa. And so often, the response is marked with victim blaming: what was she doing/where was she going/what did she have on/why did she go there by herself…Our level of comfort with asking what she did ‘wrong’ and then allocating sympathy is rather horrifying.