Walking Knowingly into Harm’s Way

Sabrina Tavernise describes encounters with sexual harassment she encounters while working as a journalist around the world in this NY Times article.

Some incidents describe a collapse of boundaries during social upheaval. Some describe deliberate aggression intended to show disrespect and scorn.

While it would be wrong for an employer to insist that women put themselves in situations fraught with threats and abuse, it would also be wrong to exclude women from the opportunity to report from important locations. And not even the New York Times has the wherewithal to require civility from those with whom their reporters have contact. There does not seem any way to be fully safe and fully involved.

Clearly delineating occupational hazards is a good start, but some hazards only become real when they are here and now.

Journalism has its special qualities as does healthcare.

In a survey of hospital nurses, I found that they experienced harassment from colleagues as having an entirely different quality than harassment from patients. While upsetting, they considered harassment from patients as an addition to their workload. It was a problem that they hoped management would address. Depending on how a survey defines assault, anywhere from 10% to 50%+ of nurses experience assault in a given year.

They experienced harassment from colleagues in an entirely different way. It wasn’t part of workload, it was a betrayal. It undermined nurses’ experience of community and justice at work.

Both types of harassment were a problem, but the source made one problem different from the other. When facing abuse from an external group, one can hope for support from one’s community. When facing abuse from within one’s community, that hope gets shaky.

Are news organizations doing all they can to support their people on the ground in volatile situations?

Does news coverage justify reporters’ exposure to threats, abuse, and harm?

Can more be done to buffer health care workers from abuse and harm in their work?

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