Nine years passed before Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya spoke publicly about the brutal rape she endured while reporting on right-wing paramilitaries in May 2000. On assignment for the Bogotá daily El Espectador, Bedoya was abducted, bound, blindfolded, and taken to a house in the central city of Villavicencio, where she was savagely beaten and raped by multiple attackers.
Since she began speaking out, Bedoya said, she has encountered a number of journalists—from Colombia to the United States to Europe—who had been raped or sexually abused but chose to stay quiet because of cultural and professional stigmas. By making her own case more visible, Bedoya said, she hopes to encourage these journalists to “denounce what’s happened to them and be able to ask for justice.”
The 2000 attack on Bedoya was notable in one respect: The assault was reported to authorities and CPJ documented it at the time, making it one of the relatively few recorded cases of sexual assault against a journalist.
Over the past four months, CPJ has interviewed more than four dozen journalists who have undergone varying degrees of sexual violence—from rape by multiple attackers to aggressive groping—either in retaliation for their work or during the course of their reporting.
Now, the vicious sexual assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo in February has brought the issue into sharp focus, prompting journalists worldwide to begin speaking out in numbers previously unknown. Over the past four months, CPJ has interviewed more than four dozen journalists who have undergone varying degrees of sexual violence—from rape by multiple attackers to aggressive groping—either in retaliation for their work or during the course of their reporting. They include 27 local journalists, from top editors to beat reporters, working in regions from the Middle East to South Asia, Africa to the Americas. Five described being brutally raped, while others reported various levels of sexual assault, aggressive physical harassment, and threats of sexual violence. A similar range of experience was reported by 25 international journalists; two reported being raped, five others described serious sexual violation—ranging from violent, sexual touching, to penetration by hands—and 22 said they had been groped multiple times. Most of the reported attacks occurred within the past five years, although a small number of cases date back as far as two decades.
Many of the assaults fall into three general types: targeted sexual violation of specific journalists, often in reprisal for their work; mob-related sexual violence against journalists covering public events; and sexual abuse of journalists in detention or captivity. Although women constitute the large majority of victims overall, male journalists have also been victimized, most often while in captivity or detention.
Most of the individuals interviewed by CPJ have not previously disclosed their experiences beyond speaking with friends or family. Journalists from all over the world said they largely kept assaults to themselves because of broad cultural stigmas and a lack of faith that authorities would act upon their complaints. But time and again, journalists also said that professional considerations played an important role; many were reluctant to disclose an assault to their editors for fear they would be perceived as vulnerable and be denied future assignments.
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