Lara Logan spoke to Scott Pelley of CBS’ “60 Minutes” about her sexual assault in Cairo during February’s popular uprising, in an interview that aired Sunday night. Logan was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to cover the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government for CBS, and was pulled from her production team by a group of Egyptian men.
Logan said she would speak only once about her February 11 assault, in an attempt to “break the silence” of the sexual harassment and assault female journalists experience. In the graphic retelling of the abuse she suffered, Logan said Egyptian men beat her with sticks and flagpoles, but “all I could feel was their hands raping me over and over and over again.”
Logan, a veteran war reporter and foreign correspondent, arrived in Cairo with her production team just after Mubarak stepped down. She called the feeling in protest nerve center Tahrir Square “unbelievable,” and said it “looked like a party.” The crowd was pushing and shoving, and she wasn’t nervous when she arrived. After all, this wasn’t her first time reporting on the upheaval in Egypt. Just a week before, Logan and her crew had been detained by Egyptian police and interrogated, then expelled from the country.
On February 11, the day Mubarak stepped down, Logan reported from Tahrir Square without trouble for about an hour, then a camera battery died. In the lull, Logan’s local guide heard someone in the crowd saying in Arabic, “we should take her pants off.” As he tried to pull Logan out of the crowd and leave, Logan said she felt hands grabbing her from behind, roughly grabbing her crotch and buttocks.
“The more I screamed, it turned them into a frenzy,” she said.
Logan clung to the hand of a bodyguard, Ray, trying not to get lost in the crowd of men that tore off her sweater, shirt and bra.
“I felt them literally tear my pants to shreds, and then I felt my underwear go,” she said. “When my clothes gave way, I remember looking up and seeing them taking pictures with their cell phones, the flashes.”
She lost grip the bodyguard; he was left with only the torn-off sleeve of her jacket.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I was in the process of dying,” she said of the 25 minutes that she was dragged through the mob, being beaten and molested. “I thought not only am I going to die, but it’s going to be just a torturous death that’s going to go on forever.”
Eventually, Logan was saved by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers, who reunited her with her team.
Max McClellan, Logan’s producer, said “she looked like a rag doll” when he finally saw her again. Her arms and legs dangled like they were broken.
Logan and McClellan immediately flew back to D.C. and went to a hospital. Logan said that in addition to the soreness from her muscles being stretched and limbs pulled, doctors also had to look at “the tearing inside and the mark of their hands, their fingers, all over my body, cuts and everything you can imagine, but no broken bones.”
Logan said she “definitely” feels like she’s healing now, and hopes that her coming forward with her experience will bring more attention to the dangers female journalists often brave.
“My female colleagues stood up and said that I’d broken the silence on what all of us have experienced and never talk about,” Logan said of the harassment and assault female reporters often face. “They don’t want it to stop them from doing their job…they’re committed to what they do, they’re not adrenaline hounds or junkies.”
Since Logan’s attack, the Committee to Protect Journalists started a study on female reporters and sexual assault, calling it a “press freedom issue.”
This week marked Logan’s first time back on the job at CBS. She has been recovering with her husband and two children since February.