Human rights reporter Mac McClelland goes "full impact" listen03/08/11 Lisa Marzilli
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The recent sexual assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan has called attention to an issue that is far too prevalent yet too often ignored; the dangers faced by journalists – especially women - covering stories in conflict zones around the world. Logan was attacked as she reported from Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the last night of the pro-democracy uprisings in Egypt after becoming separated from her TV crew. CBS said she suffered a “brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating” and was finally rescued by a group of women and soldiers.
Mac McClelland is an award winning human rights reporter for Mother Jones Magazine whose job has taken her to conflict zones like Haiti, and soon, Congo. She says it took a lot of courage for Logan to go public and hopes it will start a much needed conversation within the industry.
Raised by "pot smoking parents", McClelland, who says she never developed a tolerance for so much as being yelled at, enrolled herself in a brutal 3 day self defense course in Monterrey in preparation for her upcoming assignment in Congo.
It’s called “full force” self defense and it’s designed to terrorize women for hours at a time, in an effort to train the body to overcome the instinct to freeze in response to crisis. It was invented by a woman with a black belt in karate who was unable to fend off her own rape, because all of her training was limited to controlled spars and not under the influence of what McClelland calls “survival adrenaline”.
McClelland wrote about her experience in a two part article for Mother Jones. She says “full force” defense means not pulling your punches or mimicking your way out. Instead, an assailant attacks you until you are striking him as hard as you actually can - and until he feels he would have legitimately been knocked out if not for all his padding. McClelland said although women were allowed to “tap out” if the situation became too overwhelming for them, only one did – and it wasn’t for long.
The good news, McClelland says, is that every fight won, further embeds in your body the possibility of doing it again. And she believes everyone could benefit from "full force" training.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 44 journalists were killed in 2010 and 145 were imprisoned. But despite these statistics, the group’s safety guide ignores the issue of sexual assault. When McClelland raised this question to the CPJ they said the guide is undergoing a broad revision and that the new edition, which will be published at the end of the year, will include a section on sexual assault.