The year was 1988. I was living in Cairo, studying Arabic and pursuing my dreams of being a foreign correspondent. I was on my way to a friend's house near Tahrir Square to use his international line to call a magazine in New York. Typically, I went out of my way to dress conservatively in respect for Egypt's Muslim culture. But today, as a compromise with the broiling heat, I wore a long baggy dress with no sleeves. That was mistake number one.
I walked by a coffee shop I had passed dozens of times before. I was in a good mood and I smiled at the men sitting there. That was mistake number two. One of the men got up and followed me into the elevator. I held the door for him. That was mistake number three. Halfway to Steve's apartment on the fifth floor, the man jammed the elevator, unzipped his pants and told me he was going to rape and kill me. In about 15 seconds, I did everything they had taught me in sexual assault class.
I tried reasoning with him, I fought back, and then I started screaming my head off. My assailant panicked and after fumbling with the doors, fled. My outrage blazing, Steve and I went to the local police station. I gave a statement in Arabic and explained that the men in the coffee shop probably knew who my assailant was. The police officer smiled at me. He escorted me outside. And then he slapped Steve on the back and congratulated him. I am not kidding.
I am so sorry to hear about Lara Logan. I am so sorry that sexual attacks on women continue to be a fact of life. But the assault didn't stop me from achieving my dreams and breaking important stories in Washington, the Middle East and here in California. It didn't stop me, and it hasn't stopped my sister journalists, many of whom have also been assaulted. We not only have gotten over the attacks, we have developed a deep resilience. Lara Logan is not alone. We are all survivors.
With a Perspective, I'm Elise Ackerman.