Heart on our Sleeve

For some journalists being a foreign correspondent is a very exciting proposition. You get to the heart of conflict, break stories on a daily basis and live on the edge. While there are, like many other areas of journalism, more men on the frontline than women there is no difference to the risks they take.

However in February last year CBS News foreign affairs correspondent Lora Logan brought to our attention the sexual violence women on the frontline experience. While reporting from Egypt’s Arab Spring in February 2011 she was mobbed by hundreds of men in Tahir Square. She later shared her horrific story in one of the most disturbing interviews I have ever watched.

Lorna spoke out about what happened to her, not because it was widely reported but as she later wrote; “I want the world to know that I am not ashamed of what happened to me. I want everyone to know I was not simply attacked – I was sexually assaulted. This was, from the very first moment about me as a woman. But ultimately, I was just a tool. This was about something bigger than all of us – it was about what we do as journalists.”

This statement was written with the release of No Woman’s Land: On the Frontlines, a book put together by the International News Safety Institute in response to Lorna’s attack. The book is a compilation of experiences and advice for women who place themselves at risk to report the news.

Sadly women’s risk of sexual violence is something all too common. 1 in 5 Australian women have experienced a sexual assault since the age of 15. Of that, 45% had experienced more than one sexual assault. And while sexual violence is not discriminate, there is a reported higher rate experienced by women. And ironically it is also one of the most under reported crimes against women.

This week another journalist spoke out against sexual violence. Tracey Spicer wrote on The Hoopla her dismay with the current debate around sexual assaults. In talking about it she spoke of her own experiences. It was not an experience from the frontline or at the hands of foreign men, but it was just as honest and revealing. She put her own experiences out there to give strength to women who had not spoken out.

Her truthfulness and tenacity to speak out brought home to me how we as journalists have our own experiences that relate to the events we report. It makes us human and relatable.

What Tracey and Lorna both did was use their skills as storytellers to give strength to all those who have, or have not, spoken out about the violence they have experienced. It is brave journalism and something we just don’t see enough of.

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