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When the Gov’t Won’t Call It Rape

CBS newswoman Lara Logan — who, as The Sisterhood has reported on here and here,spoke out recently about her experience being sexually assaulted (stripped, beaten and raped with the hands of a large group of men) while covering the protests earlier this year in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. She said she was coming forward in order to assert the rights of women. But if that is the case, then there are so many stories here that are not being followed, ranging from the culpability of her employer to Egypt’s societal attitudes toward women to laws in the America that would deem that Logan had not, in fact, been raped.

Let’s start with the last one. Ms. Magazine notes that the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), defines forcible rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” But the definition of “forcible” rape “excludes most rapes,” Ms. reports. “It leaves out oral, anal and statutory rape; rape with an object, finger or fist; incest; and, for many police departments that misinterpret the definition, women raped while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol are excluded, as well as unconscious women and those with physical or mental disabilities. That means our national dialogue on rape is diluted; it’s based on bad numbers and faulty reporting–and that leaves women like Logan to be ignored.”

Now, that’s a story … and one that I have yet to see CBS cover in the wake of Logan’s assault. But CBS, in this reporter’s view, perhaps, bears a share of the blame for the circumstances in which Logan found herself that fateful night. Yes, Logan was accompanied by a crew that included, among others, a security guard. However, it seems that the group as a whole was woefully uninformed about the situation in which they found themselves.

“I had no idea…so many Egyptian men admit to sexually harassing women,” Logan said at one point in the interview. Now, this is truly shocking. No idea? Really? Simply Googling the topic easily reveals over 3.5 million hits, most of which expound upon Egypt being a society in which casual misogyny and harassment is commonplace. Over the past five years, Al Jazeera English has repeatedly run pieces, including this one on the unique hostility against women on Egyptian streets.

So why has the story of Egyptian misogyny gone unreported stateside for so long, especially as Egypt rises to the fore as a dominant force in the new Middle East? And why would CBS not only not know these facts, but fail to disclose them in advance to an attractive, blonde female journalist (with her hair uncovered) reporting from a hotbed of mob sentiment?

Obviously, Logan is an adult and is capable of making her own choices. I have a libertarian streak and, therefore, no desire to create some sort of in loco parentis monster. What I am espousing, however, is corporate responsibility — in particular, the responsibility of a news organization to protect its employees and make sure they are armed with knowledge as well as armed guards.

All of these issues go utterly unremarked upon by the “60 Minutes” broadcast. And in doing so, CBS does its reporter, its viewership and the true story a disservice.


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