Sonmez alleges in her lawsuit against the Post that former and current top editors stifled her career growth, failed to protect her from online threats, and behaved as though her own reported experience of sexual assault made her too biased to cover the #MeToo movement or sexual harassment of any kind via two coverage bans.

In the lawsuit, filed July 21, Sonmez says she experienced severe depression and anxiety at her situation, and humiliation at having to repeatedly disclose her reported assault to colleagues.

She also claims her editors prioritized protecting the Post against perceived bias over protecting her from online harassment, which included rape and death threats.

The IWMF’s Muñoz said she believes media organizations have made some progress in addressing women journalists’ general safety, based on companies who ask her organization for resources and training. But she said women still ultimately aren’t protected.

Women journalists are experiencing more online violence now than ever before, a UNESCO research discussion paper published in April found. Hundreds of women reporters who responded to the UNESCO survey — 73% of the total number polled — said they had experienced online violence, with sexual violence and death threats frequently cited. Most women journalists who reported the harassment said employers’ top responses were either no response, or advice to “grow a thicker skin” or “toughen up.”

“They’re not protected in their newsrooms. They’re not protected from within the newsroom, they’re not protected against online harassment,” Muñoz said.

Muñoz said inhibitors to newsrooms adequately addressing women journalists’ safety include costs — for recurring trainings, for security, for personal protective equipment like gloves, flak jackets or goggles. But often, she said, newsrooms are reluctant to change because admitting an incident occurred can open the news organization up to legal consequences, or because a star reporter is the one accused of wrongdoing.

A lack of diversity in newsroom management, and more women and people of color leading newsrooms, would help better protect journalists, she said.

“I just think that the media industry has a long way to go,” Muñoz said.

In addition to adding more women to top leadership positions, newsrooms should create pathways to report abuse or discrimination away from immediate management and supervisors, Muñoz said. Intentional or not, she said, retribution is happening.

“I even think that sometimes editors or managing editors think that they’re protecting women,” she said. “‘Oh, we can’t send you on this beat because it’s really dangerous.’ And, ‘This has happened to you before; we don’t want you to be harmed again.’”

Stuckey said she believes Sonmez speaking publicly about her experiences will encourage more newsrooms to put their journalists first — and to do it the right way.

“Regardless of what happens with the lawsuit, the fact that there is a lawsuit, the fact that she was brave enough to do this, it will make other news organizations think twice before they do something like that to one of their reporters,” she said.