Culture of silence

Women journalists share their stories of facing sexual harassment on the job

Former Fox News Channel Host Gretchen Carlson. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Variety)

Newsweek journalist Lucy Westcott emailed friends and colleagues a survey in mid-July asking them to relate any experiences of sexual harassment they may have experienced while on the job. To date, 53 women and two men have reached out to the weekly magazine to relate their stories of harassment and assault at the hands of superiors, colleagues, and even sources.

One of the stories came from Clara Rollins, who said she was working as a photography intern at the age of 18 when she was asked by a section editor if she’d ever had sex. The editor proceeded to harass Rollins with flirtatious texts, asking her whether she “would do anything for him” and implying that she “wouldn’t get a recommendation from him” if she didn’t come over to his house. Rollins, now a 23-year-old general assignment reporter, said that at the time she “didn’t know what else to do. I was afraid saying no would mean I wouldn’t collect any more clips.” After declining a number of times, she went to his home where she said he forcibly performed oral sex on her before she grabbed her clothes and fled. He continued to text her for the two months until she went to college, but Rollins said she avoided seeing him ever again.

Sexual harassment in the media industry has been in the spotlight since allegations against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes by numerous female staff, including anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, forced the media mogul’s ouster. A 2013 study from the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) found that nearly two-thirds of women journalists had suffered some form of harassment at work. The lack of job security in the industry, said Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of the IWMF, “absolutely” leads to fewer women reporting harassment due to the potential risk of retaliation.

Most of the women who spoke to Newsweek said that harassment occurred early in their careers, and Amanda Mustard, 26, says that there’s “a real need for older female champions” to let younger women know they won’t be blamed for harassment, or be perceived as weak for reporting it. “The two generations need to work together more,” added Mustard, who says she was followed home and assaulted on multiple occasions while working as a photojournalist in Egypt. “It doesn’t help anyone or change anything by pretending like it doesn’t exist.”

Read the full story at Newsweek.

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