I was assaulted in broad daylight at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 26, during the unveiling of the prototypes for Trump’s wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
I stopped writing in this journal after it happened because I feared people would think I was being melodramatic. I had launched this journal to re-empower myself after a string of upsetting experiences that left me feeling voiceless. Within days, I was assaulted while doing my job. It seemed like too much at once. I went quiet.
But if I don’t write about what happened, the same patterns of silence will continue. What happened, happened. And I am pretty sure it happened because I am a woman.
My employer helped me find the identity of my assailant, but I am omitting all names besides my own because the investigation is ongoing.
Below is the report I sent to the man’s employer, similar to the one I sent to the authorities. It is important to note that my two coworkers and I were among the only women in a crowd of mostly male, largely beefy videographers: me (5’2″, 106 pounds), my videographer, K (5’2″, 120 pounds) and our social media director, E (5’4″, 125 pounds).
I should point out that I have been in a lot of rough-and-tumble press conferences. In Mexico City, when I was covering the events of federal officials for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, journalists would basically trample each other while in pursuit of the person of interest, emitting a chorus of apologies while seeking to place microphones and cameras close to the right source.
What happened to me a few days ago was different. This was targeted, premeditated, calculated violence.
It even seemed practiced. By hitting me in the face with a hard object, rather than trying to elbow or shoulder his way into the spot, he ensured that there would be no struggle, that I would immediately move, so that he could place his tripod where I had been standing—and so that it would all happen too quickly for most bystanders to notice.
Below is a photograph of K with her foot brace a few minutes after the incident, in the place where she was pushed by the male videographers—behind everyone.
It wasn’t even a chaotic press conference. There were maybe a dozen or so videographers there, and it was outdoors—plenty of space for everybody. But K & E & I were among the first to arrive, and secured one of the best spots for our camera, right in front of the podium. In retrospect, it seems pretty clear to me that my female coworkers and I were simply deemed to be taking up space in male territory.
A few minutes before my assailant arrived, another male videographer had come and made the same allegation that we were in his spot, ordering us to move. When we refused to obey his order based on his false assertion, he shouldered his way in beside us.
The next man—my assailant—echoed his claims, and added to them a physical attack.
Earlier this year, I led a panel at the Pasadena LitFest on Hostile Environment Reporting for Young Female Journalists, which highlighted how important it is for women to speak up—to ask their employers for training when they’re going to be news gathering in hostile environments, to report assaults, and so on. After this incident I am more sure than ever that we must speak up, to protect not only ourselves but the women who will fill our shoes in the future. It seems obvious, but it’s hard.
Women face hostile environments on a daily basis. This shouldn’t come as news to anyone. If it does, it’s because so many women choose to stay silent out of fear or shame. Help us speak up by affirming our voices. Help us speak up by sharing your own.