The Psychological Toll on Female Journos in the Hot Zone

Over at Good, Mac McClelland has an amazing confessional piece about the psychological toll faced by female journalists reporting from dangerous areas–stemming from the ever-present threat of rape. While covering the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Haiti, McClelland was cornered by her driver in an abandoned building–a situation she managed to talk herself out of. She was also stalked and propositioned on a near daily basis by various other men. Prior to that, while covering the Gulf spill in New Orleans, “a white oil-spill worker threatened to lynch any black oil-spill worker who hit on me.”

When CBS correspondent Lara Logan went public that she was raped in Egypt five months after I returned from Haiti, most people reacted with the appropriate amount of horror. Some, though, blamed the reporter for putting herself in a risky situation, and for being reckless enough to enter one when she’s so hot. No wonder it’s a rarity for correspondents to discuss their pain, and practically unheard of when it regards sexual harassment or assault. The handbook of the Committee to Protect Journalists didn’t even mention it—until 20 days ago, when the organization published an “addendum on sexual aggression.”

If the handbook had a section detailing “symptoms of a journalist who really needs counseling and should probably go home,” I would have fit the description. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stay sober. When the power went out, I just sweated in the stifling heat because I was too scared to open my windows even though they weren’t the kind someone could fit through.

McClelland was eventually diagnosed with PTSD when she returned home from Haiti. The rest of the piece delves into–in very, very, intimate detail–the process that eventually helped her recover and get back into the field. That process included violent mock-rape.

An important read.