What happened to her.

As soon as I heard the terrible news about Lara Logan, I knew it would only be a matter of time before a handful of numbskulls, marching forward under the banner NO MORE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, would say something charming.

It didn’t take long. Roy has a roundup. It’s the Daniel Pearl story with sex and a prettier victim. That is, there are lots of she-asked-for-its, sprinkled with what-else-can-you-expect-from-those-animals, and a certain amount of what-exactly-happened-in-this-sexual-assault (and please, spare no details).

I’ll go in a different direction: What happened to Logan isn’t shameful in any way, and she should talk about it.

There was a movement in this direction some years back, in journalism circles. The editor of the Des Moines Register, I b’lieve it was Geneva Overholser, wrote a column asking, if rape isn’t “about sex” and is an assault like any other, why journalists have a widespread shared agreement not to name victims in news accounts. Maintaining the veil only serves to silently reinforce all the ugly prejudices about victims — that they’re ruined, somehow, and should never talk about it.

A woman came forward in the wake of that column, Nancy Something, and told her story to Overholser a Des Moines Register reporter, who wrote about it in painstaking detail, using her full name. It was a compelling read, and underlined her point. What happened to Nancy Something was an assault, plain and simple, that just happened to take a sexual form.

And nothing changed. If anything, the atmosphere regarding reporting crimes got even chillier. Look at a newspaper from the 1960s, and that’s one thing that strikes you — how much more open that sort of reporting used to be. If you got mugged in an alley, you could expect to find your name and address printed in the paper, as well as what hospital you were taken to, and what your condition was at press time.

I understand Overholser’s position, but I don’t share her belief that changing the journalism will change the nature of the crime. Every single one of us practices something I call “distancing,” i.e. the immediate calculus, upon hearing upsetting news about misfortune befalling someone else, of how this would not have happened to us. We wouldn’t have been in Detroit at that hour. We would never buy real estate in a city below sea level. We never accept opened bottles of beer from strange men. And so on. It’s far, far worse when it’s rape, because, as we’ve learned to accept for a while now, so often the perpetrator is someone we know. (But it wouldn’t be something we know, because we have such great people sense. And also, we would never wear anything that tight and low-cut, and we aren’t blonde, and so on.) It’s taken us a long damn time to get to where it’s acceptable for a woman to not be a virgin when she gets married. I think we’ve got some ground to cover before being beaten up = rape.

But maybe having Logan talk about it would help. Although who knows? Reading some of those reactions Roy rounded up, I’m wondering if it would make things even worse.

So, bloggage:

Let Jimmy Kimmel harvest the low-hanging fruit of the Harry Baals story. And then let Jon Stewart get the good stuff.

And that’s it for me, alas. This week, Wednesday is the new Tuesday.

Posted at 10:06 am in Current events |

36 responses to “What happened to her.”

  1. Randy said on February 16, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Those wingnuts’ observations are vile. It seems like we’ve got to have another Jon Stewart moment, where he or someone else says “stop, please just stop what you’re doing”.

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  2. Kim said on February 16, 2011 at 10:45 am

    You are right – it was Geneva Overholser who wrote the column about naming the rape victim. But it was Jane Schorer who wrote the series that named the woman. That series won the 1990 Pulitzer for public service.

    I don’t know about naming victims, period. Sometimes it provides context important to understanding what happened, but not usually. I covered a case where a youth pastor sexually abused two young teen girls. The cops kept the victims’ identities under wraps, and at the trial I nearly gasped when the prosecutor revealed one of the victims was the pastor’s child. Could have used that info, but really, who would?

    I know the difference is this was a kid, Lara Logan is an adult. But presuming – or even hoping – a full-out, first-person account will be therapeutic or educational for anyone but Logan is asking too much.

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  3. alex said on February 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I imagine El Rushbo will probably weigh in today with remarks even more tasteless than any cited in Roy’s roundup. For once I wish that asshole would go so far beyond the pale, as Dr. Laura did, that his advertisers would abandon him and his show would be no more.

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  4. ROgirl said on February 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Is it a coincidence that this story about a lawsuit that “accuses the Department of Defense of allowing a military culture that fails to prevent rape and sexual assault” appeared in the news today?


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  5. Dave said on February 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Rape is nothing but assault and what you wear or do can have nothing to do with it. I became more convinced of this after a close friend’s mother was assaulted in a laundromat in a north-central Indiana city, in the middle of the afternoon. She was 70-something. Just awful. Yes, they caught him, but still. . .just awful.

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  6. Jeff Borden said on February 16, 2011 at 11:31 am

    The amoebas of the far-right airwaves don’t have the nerve, the skill or the desire to cover breaking news. It’s so much easier to sit in an air-conditioned studio surrounded by sycophants and bodyguards and take shots at people like Lara Logan, who are actually putting their lives on the line to gather the information these tapeworms denigrate on a daily basis.

    I wonder if the bastards bashing Logan are sharing with their listeners and readers that she was rescued by Muslim women and members of the Egyptian Army, who are presumably also Muslims.

    Right-wing bloggers and radio hosts keep lowering the bar. There is no statement too vile for them.

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  7. ac jones said on February 16, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Nir Rosen, the most crass of the Logan commenters is not at all right wing. He’s from the other edge.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 16, 2011 at 11:48 am

    AC, ya beat me too it. Let’s just call misogyny misogyny wherever it comes from. And that’s where the odd reaction to this comes from — National Review sites are all noting prayerful support, no snark at all.

    And on not identifying juveniles — five years working in the heart of the system, and I’m very much unconvinced that it helps more than it hurts. Or rather, it helps offenders know they are not going to be held accountable, and gives non-compliant parents another veil to hide behind. Protecting juvenile *victims*, sure, but somehow they always end up effectively if not actually named, while flotillas of litigation protect adjudicated offenders from ever thinking anyone will catch a hint of what they’ve done (or are doing).

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  9. Anonymous said on February 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    My heart hurts for Lara. I don’t know what we as a society can do about changing people’s attitudes about rape survivors.

    I told a professor about being raped as a freshman in college. This woman, a veteran performer in our campus’s production of “The Vagina Monologues,” told me that rape wouldn’t be such a problem if women didn’t drink so damn much. (Never mind that I had been stone cold sober during the attack on a Sunday morning.)

    Her dismissal of my pain was like being raped all over again. My internal Greek Chorus can only imagine what the cops would have said, or what my parents would have said. (My mom told me later on that year not to wear a tight shirt, as I’d end up getting raped.)

    Someone needs to make rape not about sex. I’m sorry to say that I am not the woman to make it happen. Lara Logan might not be either.

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  10. Catherine said on February 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Nir Rosen just resigned from NYU, per twitter.

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  11. adrianne said on February 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I need to take a shower after reading those comments on Lara Logan. I wish we could report sexual assault as just another assault, but clearly societal norms aren’t anywhere near allowing that to happen without the hateful commentary.

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  12. Bitter Scribe said on February 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I remember how much that Des Moines Register editor’s comments rankled me at the time. Having a stranger (or acquaintance, “friend” or anyone else) shove his penis into you is different in every way from, say, being forced to hand over your wallet. Editors who can’t see that have no right to complain when the media get castigated as “insensitive.”

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  13. Julie Robinson said on February 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Anonymous, I am so sorry, both that you were raped and that your professor failed you. It’s just plain wrong, and you deserve to have someone tell you that. If you haven’t, please go to your local rape crisis center. They will help you in the healing process. It doesn’t matter how many years ago it happened.

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  14. baldheadeddork said on February 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    On a happier note, maybe, Chrysler is now offering “Imported from Detroit” t-shirts. (h/t Autoblog)


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  15. Linda said on February 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    For once I wish that asshole would go so far beyond the pale, as Dr. Laura did, that his advertisers would abandon him and his show would be no more.

    Dr’s ratings had been taking a dip, so there was a pale she could have gone beyond. Rushbo, not so much. As Joan Rivers said when castigating MSNBC for letting Olbermann go: “..we all know it’s about numbers, so I don’t understand that because I understand his numbers were terrific. You know, if Hitler came back and got good numbers somebody would say, look, he’s changed.”

    Baldheadeddork, somebody said they have seen those T Shirts around in the D.

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  16. Casey said on February 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on the Daily Show’s Harry Baals coverage. Although the link doesn’t work up here inCalgary, my DVR is set to record it every day (broadcasts too late at night for me, so we have marathons most weekends). Laughed so hard I cried.

    On the Logan news, the Schussel comments aren’t surprising, she’s made a career out being an Islamaphobe since before 9/11. Just scanned her blog archive, pretty hateful stuff.

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  17. Mark P. said on February 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    One of the problems with how to handle rape (I think as a male) is that it is an attack that expresses the power of the attacker against his victim in the most powerful way, and in the way in which the victim is the most vulnerable. The violation is of the victim’s personhood as well as of the body. Given the way society treats sex, the victim remains in the weakest and most vulnerable position in trying to have her attacker held accountable. It’s hard to see how naming the victim doesn’t victimize her again. And I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

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  18. coozledad said on February 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Schlussel’s insistence that rape is a product of Islam is a complete non-sequitor. She must have missed the Bosnian War, and the tactics of Serbian paramilitaries altogether. She also delberately ignores the history of the previous centuries’ internecine Western wars, and the handbooks of the School of the Americas and Xe.
    Any society, ours included, that punishes women for having sex is granting tacit approval to use sexual assault as a means of coercion. This accounts for the Republican effort to redefine rape. It was in essence, a restigmatization bill.

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  19. Little Bird said on February 16, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    A lot of people seem to think that rape ruins a woman. And to a certain extent they’re right. Just not the way the think of the word “ruins”. Rape can destroy your self confidence. It can destroy your self worth. It makes it harder for you to develop a relationship later in life. It takes YEARS to overcome.
    The act isn’t about sex. It’s about power. And in many cases, violence. And it really really sucks.

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  20. Sue said on February 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    “Reading some of those reactions Roy rounded up, I’m wondering if it would make things even worse.”
    Hmmm… we just went through an attempt by our Federal legislators to redefine rape, into categories, depending on how hard the victim fought.
    And in Georgia a legislator wants to change the terminology of someone who reports a rape, from ‘victim’ to ‘accuser’. She can be called a victim when there’s a conviction and not before.
    Asking women who’ve been through hell, who then came up for air only to find themselves in a toxic cloud, to turn their experiences into a teaching moment seems too much to expect from any but the very toughest of them. And those who are tough enough to speak about it would be chided for being too ballsy.

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  21. Kia said on February 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    In 2003 I was working as the editor of a newspaper in St. Kitts. I was attacked in my house by a man with a knife–woke up, heard noise, walked into living room, was jumped and knocked to the floor where I fought him for about 10 long, long minutes before he fled out the door. I wasn’t raped–I’m not even sure that’s what he intended. I later came to know that he specialized in robbing women, breaking into their houses or holding them up. I think there was a sexual component to it in that respect. I got some minor cuts to my fingers fighting him for the knife, and of course the fright of the whole thing. But I also remember that as I was being led to the ambulance I was insisting that someone take pictures of the blood all over my kitchen floor–I now attribute this to being slightly out of my head. When the hospital released me, local journalists were waiting there to take me home. One of them was the manager of the big independent radio station. He reported the story first thing in the morning without using my name. Days later I published my own very detailed first-person account in the very next issue of the paper, a weekly, with a photo of myself and a photo of the bloody floor. In subsequent weeks all sorts of people made a point of introducing themselves to me and thanking me (I had only lived on the island for a year). Even more significantly, other women who had been attacked or had their homes invaded confided to me their experiences, and it clearly made a huge difference that they had someone to talk to who had been through it and who, from the way I told my story, they knew would not judge them. This all came out in casual conversations as I went about my business, stopping to buy a magazine or waiting in line at the supermarket, or at the beach. But there were also idiots too: one political party newspaper suggested that I had been colluding with the government in hiding crime statistics and therefore had brought it on myself. And then there was the guy who asked me, very loudly at a beach bar, “Are you sure that guy didn’t rape you?” As if I might be hiding this “fact” and hiding my enjoyment of it. I’m all for disclosure, even knowing the assholes will show up. But something in me says that the choice of how much and what to disclose is up to the victim, who, ideally, will be strong enough, supported enough, cared for and cared about enough, and fierce enough to tell her/his story without shame. I was lucky, so I don’t really consider myself qualified by experience to tell other people what to do. But in the experience I had, telling that story was significant for my readers and very powerful for me.

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  22. Judybusy said on February 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Anonymous, I too, am so sorry about what happened to you. Especially appalling your prof didn’t “get it.” Know that you are understood in this space.

    In a related note, trials of all sorts are slowing dwn due to lack of judges and or funding. In MN recently, a rape trial was called off because the victim couldn’t stand repeated delays. She’d pepare herself for testimony, only to have it delayed months. It was too hard, and she finally told the prosecutor she couldn’t keep doing it any more.

    Rape IS different than any other kind of assault–for the reasons others have articulated so well here.

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  23. Anonymous said on February 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Judybusy and Julie – Thank you. A million times thank you.

    What is hard for me so many years later is that I want to be that strong woman who speaks out on behalf of all survivors, when in reality I am still afraid of what my parents would say if they knew.

    I am filled with regret about the rape and its aftermath. It took me two and a half years to tell my friend what her friend did to me. Why did I minimize it because it was acquaintance rape? Why didn’t I report the prof’s comments to her dean? (Instead, I walked out of her class and never came back and took the F.) I had blocked out my rape for a few years until I read the news about Ms. Logan. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in her shoes today.

    Sorry to be spilling my pathos across the community, Nancy. I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff.

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  24. Little Bird said on February 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    @ Anonymous:
    It took me about six months to tell my mother. And she got me into therapy almost immediately. It helped. Some. Time helped too. I was all of 16 when it happened the first time. I was twenty six the second time and didn’t wait around so long to tell someone. No, I never reported it to the police. I had no real proof, and I was able to get away before anything really happened. But I did make sure everyone of the (second) guys friends knew what had happened. They were also friends of mine and supported me.

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  25. Catherine said on February 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Anonymous, I was in a position in college to take a lot of women to the emergency room, campus police, etc. I’m so sorry your professor, your school and your peers failed you. I’d just add, you might be surprised at how many other women had very similar experiences.

    It seems to me that each woman in that position has to find her own way to healing. Some will tell as many times as it takes — Kia, your story is very brave. And they often find others with similar stories, and find solace there. Others need to forget, or not be reminded constantly. So, I’m not sure there’s a single editorial policy that makes sense.

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  26. 4dbirds said on February 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    My friend was gang raped in a military barracks when we were stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison during advanced training. I urged her to report it and when she did she received a field grade article 15 for being in the men’s barracks. I S*&t you not. Nothing happened to the men. Nothing. This was 1975.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Anonymous, thank you. And likewise to Kia. Telling your story is a gift for which I am grateful.

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  28. brian stouder said on February 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Yes. This thread is a (rightly) tough one; difficult to read and ponder, and yet so indispensibly important to read, and ponder.

    The CBS reporter, it should be noted, was engaged in a noble thing – indeed she was serving her nation and the rest of the outside world – when she was attacked and injured. She and all the other foreign correspondants went to Egypt because the world needs professional news gathering and reporting from there, and she was filling that need.

    As Mr Borden points out, it is worth remembering that, as our sedentary States-side demagogues blithly belittle journalists who go into harm’s way as “drive-by” journalists, or members of “state run” media operations.

    Aside from that, it is also worth noting that Rachel Maddow has been exceptionally interesting this week (even more so than usual), as she addresses many of the same privacy issues (around abortion, and changing legal standards for rape, and the intimidation and murder of doctors and other professionals who provide women’s health services) that have arisen in this thread.

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  29. Deborah said on February 17, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Back from Les Miz with Little Bird. It was enjoyable but I felt that all of the numbers were belted out, nothing seemed paced or something that built up over time, it was all balls to the wall, which I’m not used to. Opera is more varied. I cried anyway, I always cry at the slightest provocation.

    Having gone through some of what this thread is about with Little Bird, let me say that it is agonizingly painful to think about and deal with. Anonymous and Kia my heart goes out to you, brave, brave souls. I found it helpful to talk to counselors and it didn’t even happen to me, but to my daughter. By the fact that there are few comments in this thread is telling. We just don’t know how to deal with this topic, it’s gut wrenching.

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  30. Kirk said on February 17, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Watching Anderson Cooper interview this Rosen character. What a lame-assed pile of garbage. Morons like this who portray themselves as knowing anything about anything are despicable, to say the least.

    This guy purports to call himself some kind of journalist? How disgusting. Come into our newsroom, where we can properly spit on you, you fraud.

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  31. Dexter said on February 17, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Here’s the msnbc link

    Before I became addicted to NBC and Richard Engel’s reporting, I watched Lara Logan’s work on CBS during the height of the Iraq war. She’s a great reporter.

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  32. Julie Robinson said on February 17, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Deborah makes an important point; rape ripples out beyond the victim. Our local rape crisis center recognizes this and will counsel, free of charge, other family members.

    I attended a rape trial as part of a task force and got a taste of how difficult the legal process would be for a victim. The perpetrator didn’t know the victim but was taking advantage of the store she worked at being empty over the lunch hour. When the second employee got back from lunch she witnessed it and called the police. So, open and shut, right?

    But the victim had to recount every painful detail to the court, which included anyone who wandered in off the street. She had to identify her attacker, her torn underwear, and comment on photos that were taken at the hospital. And remember, she had to answer those questions over and over as she went through the legal process. No matter how much compassion was shown to her, that had to be traumatizing.

    I don’t know if I would have had the strength to go through a trial, and I can understand why so many women just want to bury it and try to move on. From my own knowledge of victims, though, it doesn’t want to stay buried and will continue to impact their lives in a myriad of ways. We are still learning the best way to help these courageous women.

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  33. Scout said on February 17, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Wow, what a powerful thread. Thanks to everyone who shared personal stories. My heart goes out to all of you.

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  34. Jolene said on February 17, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Have had Lara Logan, this thread, my own experience and that of other women I’ve known on my mind ever since hearing the report about Logan. And, really, I can’t get past the question of why people do this. How does it occur to people to turn what most of us think of as expressions of intimacy and the ultimate sensual pleasure into a form of aggression, an instrument of humiliation? Just so awful. The link between sex and aggression is, at once, obvious and incomprehensible.

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  35. brian stouder said on February 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Jolene – what I want to accomplish is “distance” from this subject*.

    We have a 6 year old who just came home from school in tears over a movie they watched, in which the momma dinosaur got killed. This was funny and heart-breaking at the same time; Pam and I love her unspoiled view of the world as she wants it to be; and we can feel her dawning disappointment with (and struggle against) the world that she is beginning to sense.

    A recurring discussion hereabouts in nn.c-land revolves around how much rein a parent should give their young people; how much is the right amount? I recall Nance approvingly citing some woman who turned her (12 year old?) loose in New York City, and expected her to successfully navigate across the metropolis – using the public transit system; and the young person successfully did this.

    So, OK. I get it. As a parent, my job is to prepare our young folks for the day when they’re independent of judgments I might make. I don’t have to LIKE it, but it is important. Still, we have to communicate to them things which sound like “distancing” mechanisms – avoid this sort of party, or that sort of boy, or that particular look or fashion…..even despite that we know that a person can be doing everything ‘right’, and still come under attack. At best, we want our fawn to be in the middle of the herd, and not be the outlier who is munching clover, where the predators are.

    I hate that.

    *despite that I know we can never achieve that “distance”; we’re in this to the end, come what may

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  36. prospero said on February 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm


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