WMC Women Under Siege

Un-silencing the crime of sexualized violence against journalists

In June 2011, I published a report at the Committee to Protect Journalists called “The Silencing Crime” about sexualized violence and journalists. I called it that because rape and other forms of sexualized assault are used constantly around the world to frighten women journalists into silence and, unfortunately, the method is effective, my research found. Women sexually attacked while on assignment told me they are usually afraid to tell their editors or managers what happened to them for fear of losing future work; they don’t want to look “weak.” They choose, instead, to live with the constant “stomachache”—as one journalist called it—of sexualized violence in the field.

There were journalists who told me that they still have not ever publicly said that they were raped while reporting decades ago and that they would never, ever want it revealed. They said they believe they’ve made the right decision—they’ve held onto their jobs.

I followed up on my research about six months after publishing the CPJ report and found that little has changed in newsrooms. An informal survey I did of Western, international news organizations found that there had been very few efforts to implement training that specifically addresses the issue.

But beyond foreign correspondents, remember that the majority of all violence against journalists around the world is against local journalists, according to CPJ. The same holds true for sexualized violence, from what I can tell. That means that a journalist raped because she covered the “wrong” thing usually continues to live and work among her perpetrators. (See this piece I wrote for The Atlantic about unbelievably brave journalist Jineth Bedoya, who was gang-raped in 2000 in Colombia for covering prison corruption. She has fought to find justice for her horrifying attack ever since.)

The added suffering of societally enforced suppression is why we need to keep talking about this issue—whether it is attacks on journalists or women in other professions or women who are attacked not for their work but because they merely exist.

Silence devastates.

To that end, I spoke on a panel recently at the United Nations about the ongoing problem of sexualized violence against journalists. Also speaking were International News Safety Institute representative Amy Selwyn, Dart Center Research Director Elana Newman, CBS correspondent Pamela Falk, Costa Rican Ambassador Eduaro Ulibarri, Austrian Ambassador Martin Sajdik and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
The Dart Center published this story Thursday about what we said, or you can watch the panel in full below.

More articles by Category: Media, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Sexualized violence, Rape, Press freedom



Lauren Wolfe
Journalist, former director, WMC Women Under Siege
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