There is an upside to Lara Logan’s assault
As a journalist, I was outraged when I learned of Lara Logan’s sexual assault. As a woman—even more so. With only two days to go until the release of a book about my own 13-year ordeal as a survivor of rape, I found it incredulous not only that Logan was brutally victimized, but that thinking people still speak before they think.
I was so disgusted I posted a link to the Salon article about Logan on Facebook, and then said, “So being blonde gives one a license to rape fair-haired women? Give me a break!”
I can relate, you see, because I’m blond and I’ve been called attractive. I’ve also been a journalist since 1988. Equally important, I still remember traveling, at age 16, from the States in 1979 to visit my parents in Jordan, a Muslim country, and the jokes my family made before I flew there. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some sheik didn’t kidnap you and take you to his harem,” my uncle said, in large part because of the pale blond hair that came down to my waist.
I wrote about how “pretty girls” become targets for violence, and a subsequent unsettling interaction with an Arabic man during my visit to Jordan in my book, Sister of Silence. That brief incident occurred as I was exiting a taxi in Amman with my Muslim neighbor, a girl named Aminah. Much to my shock and chagrin, an elderly fellow pinched my backside. Upon hearing my protests, Aminah began yelling in Arabic, apparently swearing at the fellow as he fled. “You have to be careful. Some men here are just bad,” she said.
Now juxtapose that with the scene that greeted my parents, when they arrived one month earlier, and found hanging in the city square three men who had been convicted of raping a young girl.
But what I was thinking, and what I’ve continued to think since then, is that Aminah, who came to my aid, and the Egyptian women and military men who came to Logan’s aid, share a spirit we can learn from: they stepped up and took action.
This is far more than happened as a 15-year-old high school student was gang-raped in 2009 outside of a homecoming dance in Richmond, Calif. Instead, police reported that as many as 20 people either took part—or stood and watched—the heinous crime.
Rape has been used as a weapon of war for centuries. But it’s also a tool used by husbands to control their wives; by college students who expect “payment” for spending money on a young woman after, say, a date; and by incestuous male relatives who prey upon their unsuspecting daughters or sisters, believing these females are no more than convenient objects, useful solely to satisfy their base sexual desires.
The crime doesn’t just take women as its prisoners; men are equally vulnerable. Nor are attractive journalists the only ones thus targeted: any woman, regardless of her physical appearance or vocation, is at risk. I say this because I still remember, while a cub reporter working at my first newspaper, the story about the 80-something woman from our small, rural community, who was raped when her home was broken into.
It has been said that rape (and/or sexual assault) is about control. But it is also about a lack of stability, something that is undeniably in short supply in Egypt right now.
Nor do American homes, or Christian homes, or any home anywhere in the world where violence exists, have a stable foundation. A pattern of violence, as has been seen recently in Egypt, bears a strong resemblance to the same pattern that can be seen in homes of people of any religion, wherever such violence festers.
Logan’s assault is by far one of the worst crimes to occur, as a result of recent Egyptian events, but can it be worse than what happened to the 15-year-old Richmond girl on American soil? I understand that a “hands-off” policy once applied to journalists, much like human rights workers or doctors. After all, these are the very people who try to stay neutral, who travel to report on events or help injured victims in a war-torn area. Sadly, that “hands-off” policy seems to have vanished, wherever skirmishes occur throughout the world. Anymore, anyone who “gets in the way” is considered fair game.
I voiced my disapproval and disgust over Logan’s undeserved and traumatic mistreatment, but what I personally like to take away is that, regardless of what else happened to her in Tahrir Square—people stood up for Logan, and helped her make her way to safety. All while in a Muslim nation.
Not a Christian nation, where here in this country we instead stand around with our cell phones, taking pictures while a teenager is gang-raped. And where no one comes to her aid.
It is this action that will make a difference in how we as a society, as a world of people interdependent upon each other, go forward from here. And what we do will define us—and can powerfully lessen the trauma that comes from rape. I have tried to shatter the silence that surrounded my own experiences with rape, by writing about it as a journalist and speaking in public wherever possible. Asra Nomani, another courageous journalist who has also voiced her concern about this crime and its aftereffects, has said my book helps us “emerge in the light . . . with a sense of hope, authenticity and courage.”
Personally, I hope other people take a page from Aminah, and from Logan’s rescuers, and are willing to speak up and show that same kind of courage, so that other victims of any type of sexual assault can—like I pray Logan is able to do—emerge in the light, too.
Editor’s Note: For more information about Sister of Silence, or to find out how to order a copy, go to: http://nellieblybooks.com/sister-of-silence.html