Advice for Female Journalists
We don’t have to reiterate that absolutely no one asks or deserves to be sexually or physically harrassed, but the sad and horrible truth is that sexual violence and harrassment against female journalists is a real and present risk in conflict zones. This is often an intimidation tactic or more broadly an underlying societal problem. We have collated some pragmatic advice from female journalists that may be helpful in protecting yourself when on assignment:
Know if sexual violence is a risk in the areas you are working, and prepare accordingly. This includes notifying your editors of the risk and pushing them to provide you with proper protective resources.
Take self defense training. Don’t be put off by the idea of martial arts, you don’t need to be Jackie Chan or built like Rambo to learn this. . You just need some simple and effective techniques to give you the space to escape. Krav Maga is something that is simple and effective.
In culturally conservative regions, do not leave the house with wet hair. Dry it or have it covered.
Crowds can be especially dangerous for sexual violence. Be aware of this at all times, always make sure that you are constantly aware of your surroundings/is anyone is watching or following you.
Always have a plan of escape and how to exit the area if need be.
In areas risky for women in this regard, try to never work alone.
Try to have ‘bodyguard’ figure with you, work with male colleagues, etc. Just try and make sure that someone can keep an eye on you while you work.
Mace, power knives and stun guns can be tempting to have, however be calculated in whether they are appropriate. Self defense weapons like these can easily be taken and used against you.
Prioritize investment in physical self defense skills.
Dress for the culture, blend in as much as possible.
There are certain tactics that many female journalists have adopted in places where sexual violence/harassment are high risk:
Tight trousers can be harder to pull off. Try and keep rear covered with long shirt or similar.
Wear strong leather belt, flipped inward for difficult removal.
Wearing a one-piece bathing suit under clothing can also deter/delay attackers, giving more opportunity to possibly escape.
Sports bras flatten breasts to help avoid attention, and can be difficult to remove like the bathing suit.
A stab vest can be helpful for assault protection.
A scarf can be worn to cover hair if needed, however keep it loosely wrapped. Perpetrators have used scarves to choke and drag women. A baggy beanie or hat to cover hair could be a better option.
Avoid button down shirts, as they can be removed easier.