Ethics of disclosure

After the initial shock of Lara Logan’s brutal beating and sexual assault, another realization hit me: CBS was announcing that one of its own reporters had been raped …. not in a 60 Minutes special six months later, but within days after it happened. The Central Park jogger was silent for 14 years. Even Elizabeth Smart continues to be refered to as a kidnap victim rather than sexual assault victim nearly a decade later.

I want to hear from Logan herself before deciding whether CBS’s decision to report is solid. Once the dust settles, here’s what I want to know:

  • Was the decision to report on Logan’s rape made in the intensity of the moment? Good ethical decisions certainly can be, but how was Logan part of the discussion?
  • Was this a policy decision made in advance in case the horrible happened? If so, who participated in making that policy? Suggesting a policy might have been created is not a criticism. I just want to know if there is one and how it got there.
  • Chances unfortunately are high that Logan was not the only woman assaulted last week in Cairo. Certainly other Egyptian women may have been victims, as well as other members of news crews? What are their stories?
  • How will CBS support all the victims in its employ?

ProPublica reporter Kim Baker appauled Logan for breaking the female correspondent’s code of silence. She also fears that women may be pulled off international stories, even though men have been sexually assaulted, too.  The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University has called for better strategies for media managers to support their staff members effectively after crises. As many as 86 percent of journalists have witnessed some kind of violent trauma and more than a quarter of war correspondents experience PTSD.

In the months ahead, Logan will tell her story. In the meantime, lots of people, including Nir Rosen, are going to try to capitalize on what happened to Logan. Nir Rosen mocked her in a bad tweet, then recanted to Anderson Cooper, and resigned his NYU fellowship. In his Salon piece, Rosen blames his bad judgement at least in part on his own trauma of covering the Middle East. That makes about as much sense as trying to blame Logan for the mob’s actions.

Rape is a personal assault to everything personal and private. How and when that information is shared can be a means to regaining dignity. I expect that Logan will reveal she supported CBS’ decision to report the sexual assault, and she even may have insisted that the news be released.  Other journalists victimized in the future may make the same choice, while some will want assault to remain private. Each should be given opportunity to decide for themselves.

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