Lara Logan in Egypt (Reuters)Yesterday, CBS released a statement that reporter Lara Logan was sexually assaulted and beaten while on assignment in Egypt. "In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers," read the official account from the network.
Speculation on the horrific incident has followed but only a few facts about the incident are public. We know she was saved by a group of women, but who? Presumably they were Egyptian, and likely partaking in the historic protests and regime change. That alone is significant.
By most measures, the Egyptian females participating in the Tahrir Square protests were taking a risk just being there. Protester Fatma Emam faced threats from family members and was called "a man" for participating in the rally against Mubarak. "There are so many women who, like me, defied their families," Emam told Bloomberg News. "The revolution is not only taking place in Tahrir, it is taking place in every Egyptian house. It is the revolution of fighting the patriarch."
The protest over a change in government has overlapped with the country's more liberal protests over a change in constitutional freedoms for women. With respect to Logan, could the act of heroism by an unnamed group of women serve as a protest as well?
Sexual harassment and assault is a very real issue in Egypt: 60 percent of women claim to endure it regularly according to the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights. Though the laws have been adjusted, up until 1999 a male rapist could avoid prison time by marrying his victim. If physical threats to women are as common as it seems, the idea that women stopped an attack on another woman sends a powerful message: it's time to fight back. In numbers.
The two week protests as a whole proved that, as hundreds of thousands gathered to uniformly reform their country. On a smaller scale, the unnamed "group of women" banded together to save one person. Their actions, as a result, made a statement of international solidarity: assault should never be accepted.
On Lara Logan's official Facebook page, that particular message is backed by a handful of Egyptian men who have left apologetic messages for the victim. "As an Egyptian I feel so ashamed and sorry for what happened last week," writes one male commenter on her wall. Another writes "Thank you for all your work here in Egypt, but I am so so sorry, I cried for you...please forgive me."
In the U.S., the sentiment hasn't always been as sympathetic. Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams gathered a spate of sexually hostile and offensive commentaries on the news of Logan's attack, written by fellow journalists. Both The New York Times and NPR's website removed vulgar comments left beneath stories of Logan's assault because they violated codes of conduct. Why would the sexual assault of a woman engender so much wrath and how do we protect against it? A "group of women" may have the answer.
Should the media pull women journalists out of war zones?
Bonnie Fuller on Lara Logan's assault
The remarkable, history-making women of Egypt
How much would you risk for your job?
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