NBC Implements Sexual Assault Training

NBC has implemented a training course concerning the threat of sexual assault on journalists. Last February, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Cairo. This “brought the issue into sharp focus, prompting journalists worldwide to begin speaking out in numbers previously unknown,” said Lauren Wolfe about the Logan case in her Committee to Protect Journalists special.

Logan detailed her own assault on “60 minutes”  and she encouraged journalists with similar tales to break their “code of silence.” During Lauren Wolfe’s CPJ special, she interviewed many journalists who did step forward. Over two dozen reporters stated they had been sexually violated in some way while covering the news, five of which admitted to have been “brutally raped,” said Wolfe.

This story is relevant to our Public Affairs Journalism class because cases such as Lara Logan’s have spurred a serious concern in the journalism community. This new awareness of the threat sexual violence poses in news reporting has made such a profound impact recently that “NBC  has consulted with a social worker who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder to create a pilot course aimed at preventing and dealing with sexual assault,” says Wolfe on her website, “Women Under Seige Project”.

NBC has taken matters upon itself to train journalists in the event of a sexual attack. While the Chairman of CBS, Jeff Fager, has stated that CBS will not make a mistake similar to sending Logan to Cairo. “And if we do not think we can provide enough security to feel safe? Then we will not cover the story,” says Fager.

The case of Lara Logan is certainly not the first time a journalist has been sexually assaulted on the job. However, her story has raised awareness to the dangers of being a journalist in a hostile environment.

Should all news organizations begin to implement training like NBC? Does a journalist’s duty as our democracy’s watchdog override the importance of their safety?

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2 Comments on “NBC Implements Sexual Assault Training”

  1. Elaine says:

    To answer your last question: NO, a journalist’s duty as “democracy’s watchdog” does NOT override the importance of their safety. While I hugely admire journalists’ commitment to getting the truth out, there are times when I’d be happier if they went back to their hotel or across the border to a safer country or…WHEREVER….in order to then tell us that it was too dangerous to stay but this is what they saw. It’s OK to say it’s too dangerous. It’s OK to admit that you cannot stay long enough to get the whole story that you know is there. Only the most insane of TV viewers (and yes, I know there are many) would think a journalist should *knowingly* risk their life to get a “good” story. The story, in most cases, *can* wait — it may not be ideal to get it told in retrospect later by interviewing somebody who couldn’t leave, but it *can* be done.
    That said, the “training” emphasis here, though, really bugs me. I think we have to admit that not all horrible events can be avoided; to *prevent* sexual assault usually means changing cultures, rather than simply taking “precautions” as a potential victim. I worry that the emphasis on training could inadvertently lead back to one of the most pernicious aspects of sexual violence: blaming the victim. (“You didn’t get enough training.” “If only you had perfected that karate kick or blocked your hotel room door a little better.”) The “training” involved has to be for the WHOLE culture (to understand that sexual violence is ONLY the fault of the perpetrators) and the WHOLE organization (a promise to all journalists that their employers will stand behind them, provide them with all necessary rape kits or PEP medications and psychological therapy and time away if needed, etc.). The training should NOT just be for the journalists who, despite my pleas to the contrary, I know will be in harm’s way. If they get hurt, it’s NOT their fault, no matter how much training they received.

  2. sophido says:

    As a Women’s Studies double major, hearing incidents such as these sicken me. You seldom hear about a man being sexually assaulted, especially in journalism careers. I feel incidents such as these will hinder many women from becoming journalists, which depresses me as young female pursuing a career in journalism. But enough of my feminist rant and back to your questions. Definitely news organizations should begin to implement this training. Most already implement self-defense training due to the violent nature of some stories, and I don’t see why sexual assault would not result in relevant training. Nothing overrides the safety of a humans life, so I would say no to the last question.


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