This Week in Women: Journalists are Breaking the Silence

This Week in Women is part of a series produced in partnership between Ms. and the Fuller Project for International Reporting. This column is also part of a newsletter by Across Women’s Lives. Sign up and receive it regularly here.  

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Several big stories broke this week exposing efforts to silence and threaten women seeking justice for rape and sexual assault. Investigative reporter Raquel Rutledge of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been doggedly revealing how TripAdvisor deletes or blocks hotel reviews by customers who have allegedly been sexually assaulted while staying at the hotels advertising on their site.

Check out the all-too-familiar story of Dallas mom Kristie Love, who was met by indifference and ignorance by hotel staff in the hours after her alleged rape at a Mexican resort, until a female staff member stepped in and acted. However, when she continued to push for justice, the Spanish hotel chain Iberostar’s insurance company threatened to sue her. TripAdvisor then deleted her posts, and Love claims the company lied in saying they apologized to her. It wasn’t until Rutledge began reporting on this earlier this year that TripAdvisor finally moved into action this week and announced publicly they’d sometimes include warning “badges” to customers in their reviews.

Even though Rutledge’s persistent and ongoing reporting prompted TripAdvisor to be more responsive to women’s concerns, she’s skeptical and quick to point out that TripAdvisor is still taking posts down.

“Even when I talk to women who were assaulted years ago, I can hear it in their voices. The trauma is lifelong,” Rutledge told me in a quick call this morning. Follow her reporting at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s landing page.

On Monday this week, we learned how this type of suppression is nefarious and widespread. The New Yorker’s “Army of Spies” story detailed Harvey Weinstein’s extensive hush campaign to silence his accusers and the journalists pursuing the story. The role of the press was critical here. As New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum tweeted on Thursday: If actress Rose McGowan had said she was dogged by former Mossad spies in a lucrative campaign to silence her, people would have called her nuts.

Also Thursday, more women who have long feared career and personal repercussions spoke out finally against celebrity comedian Louis C.K. And in the UK this week, more women speak out about harassment and worse by members of Parliament. The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore keeps us updated.

A Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday reminds us that in places like India, Afghanistan, Central America and so many other countries, women who have been raped still fear much more than career repercussions. They fear being killed, imprisoned or married to their rapist. U.S. foreign policy fails to properly recognize this epidemic, but some women in Washington are beginning to speak more loudly.

We are in the middle of a moment of change. This reporting can feel scary to some, but so much research and data show a correlation between how a society treats women and its quality of life for all. There are a lot of reasons to keep going here.

Christina Asquith is founder and editor-in-chief of The Fuller Project for International Reporting.

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