The frenzied attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which she bravely recounted in horrific detail during Sunday’s “60 Minutes” broadcast, is, unfortunately, just one example of the terror suffered by anonymous women around the world.
Bosnia, Rwanda, Eastern Congo – these are just a few of the places where rape and sexual violence have been used in recent decades to intimidate, demoralize and destroy populations, particularly those of other ethnic or political groups.
Rape is a weapon that can be used by individuals, mobs or armies. And as long as women are considered to be of less worth than men, are thought of as someone’s property, or are simply considered expendable, they will be at risk.
In Logan’s case, she was just doing her job on Feb. 11 when a mob celebrating the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt suddenly turned hostile, pulling her away from her security guard and crew. Her clothes were ripped off, piece by piece, and she described how she was raped by the multitude of hands covering her body. Her attackers even seemed determined to literally tear her limbs apart.
Logan was certain she would die, until the crowd pushed her up against a group of Egyptian women near a fence. One of the women put her arms around her, and others hovered protectively until a group of soldiers was able to lead her away from the crowd.
Coincidentally, the attack on Logan took place the same month that a new series of rapes occurred in the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. While a few officers were punished for rapes committed by soldiers there in January, it was a rare outcome in a place where hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and girls, have been sexually assaulted, despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers.
Like the international community, The United Methodist Church has acknowledged it is “challenged” to respond to the use of rape as a weapon. “The extent and frequency of the violation of women in war must not be allowed to deaden sensitivity to this gross injustice,” says the resolution on “Rape in Times of Conflict and War” in the church’s 2008 Book of Resolutions.
But this challenge is different from the challenge of planting churches or raising funds for flood victims or providing hot lunches for schoolchildren. The resolution actually has some good suggestions on ways to seek political and legal redress and otherwise support women in these situations, but real change can only take place when men are compelled to acknowledge women as equal partners in society.
Lara Logan said she spoke out about the sexual attack against her because she wanted to break the “code of silence” followed by other female correspondents on the topic of sexual assault.
United Methodists need to break that code, too, and spread the word that sexual violence against women is not acceptable – anywhere, any time or under any circumstances.