Female Photojournalists in War Zones Are Hiding Sexual Abuse

Judith Matloff of the Columbia Journalism Review has penned a terrifying report on the unique dangers faced by female foreign correspondents. She tells the story of one photojournalist with significant experience in South Asia:

…when she set forth on an assignment in India, she knew how to guard against gropers: dress modestly in jeans secured with a thick belt and take along a male companion. All those preparations failed, however, when an unruly crowd surged and swept away her colleague. She was pushed into a ditch, where several men set upon her, tearing at her clothes and baying for sex. They ripped the buttons off her shirt and set to work on her trousers.

“My first thought was my cameras,” recalls the photographer, who asked to remain anonymous. “Then it was, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be raped.’ ” With her faced pressed into the soil, she couldn’t shout for help, and no one would have heard her anyway above the mob’s taunts. Suddenly a Good Samaritan in the crowd pulled the photographer by the camera straps several yards to the feet of some policemen who had been watching the scene without intervening. They sneered at her exposed chest but escorted her to safety.

Alone in her hotel room that night, the photographer recalls, she cried, thinking, “What a bloody way to make a living.” She didn’t inform her editors, however. “I put myself out there equal to the boys. I didn’t want to be seen in any way as weaker.”

Matloff concludes that

The general reluctance to call attention to the problem [of rape and sexual abuse] creates a vicious cycle whereby editors, who are still typically men, are unaware of the dangers because women don’t bring them up.

[tags]photojournalists, war correspondents, rape[/tags]

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