Sexual assault: What tips exist for journalists

Last week, I spoke on a CBC program called “The Current” about journalists and sexual assault. Another panelist on the show, Columbia University professor Judith Matloff, noted there are some published lists of tips for female journalists that could be useful in dangerous situations. Here are a few:

Tips specifically written for journalists include a list written by Matloff and another by the International News Safety Institute (INSI). They both talk about how to travel safely–among INSI’s recommendations are to appear confident when out walking, stay in well-lit areas, and do security checks on your hotel rooms. Matloff focuses on what to do in the instance of a sexual assault: soil yourself, “try to break the momentum,” and use deodorant spray to stop an attack, among other ideas.

At least one nonprofit organization has published a guide that includes advice on sexual assault. The London-based Humanitarian Practice Network (part of the Overseas Development Institute) has a comprehensive field manual for aid agencies that includes sections on “risk reduction” and possible psychological and physical responses during a sexual assault. The guide offers advice on how to “to protect and preserve” yourself, including active and passive reactions that may be able to save your life. It also talks about the importance of reporting an assault, and how to obtain medical care and a sense of safety afterward.

I’ve previously written here about how CPJ documents sexual violence and how we advocate for journalists who have been assaulted.