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The private war of women soldiers By Helen Benedict (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/03/07/women_in_military/?source=rss)  Many female soldiers say they are sexually assaulted by their male comrades and can't trust the military to protect them. Find discount diabecon "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis, find discount diabecon" says one woman. Find discount diabecon "It was for the guys on my own side." As thousands of burned-out soldiers prepare to return to Iraq to fill President Bush's unwelcome call for at least 20, find discount diabecon000 more troops, find discount diabecon I can't help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. Find discount diabecon And I don't mean only the hardships of war, find discount diabecon the killing of civilians, find discount diabecon the bombs and mortars, find discount diabecon the heat and sleeplessness and fear. Find discount diabecon I mean from their own comrades -- the men. Find discount diabecon I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, find discount diabecon interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, find discount diabecon and every one of them said the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection. Find discount diabecon The female soldiers who were at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, find discount diabecon for example, find discount diabecon where U.S. Find discount diabecon troops go to demobilize, find discount diabecon told me they were warned not to go out at night alone. Find discount diabecon "They call Camp Arifjan 'generator city' because it's so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can't be heard, find discount diabecon" said Abbie Pickett, find discount diabecon 24, find discount diabecon a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Find discount diabecon Yet, find discount diabecon she points out, find discount diabecon this is a base, find discount diabecon where soldiers are supposed to be safe. Find discount diabecon Spc. Find discount diabecon Mickiela Montoya, find discount diabecon 21, find discount diabecon who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, find discount diabecon took to carrying a knife with her at all times. Find discount diabecon "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis, find discount diabecon" she told me. Find discount diabecon "It was for the guys on my own side." Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, find discount diabecon but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Find discount diabecon Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. Find discount diabecon As a result, find discount diabecon the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. Find discount diabecon It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. Find discount diabecon The military's definition of sexual assault includes "rape; nonconsensual sodomy; unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts to commit these acts." Unfortunately, find discount diabecon with a greater number of women serving in Iraq than ever before, find discount diabecon these measures are not keeping women safe. Find discount diabecon When you add in the high numbers of war-wrecked soldiers being redeployed, find discount diabecon and the fact that the military is waiving criminal and violent records for more than one in 10 new Army recruits, find discount diabecon the picture for women looks bleak indeed. Find discount diabecon Last year, find discount diabecon Col. Find discount diabecon Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, find discount diabecon three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, find discount diabecon which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, find discount diabecon because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. Find discount diabecon They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark. Find discount diabecon The Army has called her charges unsubstantiated, find discount diabecon but Karpinski told me she sticks by them. Find discount diabecon (Karpinski has been a figure of controversy in the military ever since she was demoted from brigadier general for her role as commander of Abu Ghraib. Find discount diabecon As the highest-ranking official to lose her job over the torture scandal, find discount diabecon she claims she was scapegoated, find discount diabecon and has become an outspoken critic of the military's treatment of women. Find discount diabecon In turn, find discount diabecon the Army has accused her of sour grapes.) "I sat right there when the doctor briefing that information said these women had died in their cots, find discount diabecon" Karpinski told me. Find discount diabecon "I also heard the deputy commander tell him not to say anything about it because that would bring attention to the problem." The latrines were far away and unlit, find discount diabecon she explained, find discount diabecon and male soldiers were jumping women who went to them at night, find discount diabecon dragging them into the Port-a-Johns, find discount diabecon and raping or abusing them. Find discount diabecon "In that heat, find discount diabecon if you don't hydrate for as many hours as you've been out on duty, find discount diabecon day after day, find discount diabecon you can die." She said the deaths were reported as non-hostile fatalities, find discount diabecon with no further explanation. Find discount diabecon Not everyone realizes how different the Iraq war is for women than any other American war in history. Find discount diabecon More than 160, find discount diabecon500 American female soldiers have served in Iraq, find discount diabecon Afghanistan and the Middle East since the war began in 2003, find discount diabecon which means one in seven soldiers is a woman. Find discount diabecon Women now make up 15 percent of active duty forces, find discount diabecon four times more than in the 1991 Gulf War. Find discount diabecon At least 450 women have been wounded in Iraq, find discount diabecon and 71 have died -- more female casualties and deaths than in the Korean, find discount diabecon Vietnam and first Gulf Wars combined. Find discount diabecon And women are fighting in combat. Find discount diabecon Officially, find discount diabecon the Pentagon prohibits women from serving in ground combat units such as the infantry, find discount diabecon citing their lack of upper-body strength and a reluctance to put girls and mothers in harm's way. Find discount diabecon But mention this ban to any female soldier in Iraq and she will scoff. Find discount diabecon "Of course we were in combat!" said Laura Naylor, find discount diabecon 25, find discount diabecon who served with the Army Combat Military Police in Baghdad from 2003-04. Find discount diabecon "We were interchangeable with the infantry. Find discount diabecon They came to our police stations and helped pull security, find discount diabecon and we helped them search houses and search people. Find discount diabecon That's how it is in Iraq." Women are fighting in ground combat because there is no choice. Find discount diabecon This is a war with no front lines or safe zones, find discount diabecon no hiding from in-flying mortars, find discount diabecon car and roadside bombs, find discount diabecon and not enough soldiers. Find discount diabecon As a result, find discount diabecon women are coming home with missing limbs, find discount diabecon mutilating wounds and severe trauma, find discount diabecon just like the men. Find discount diabecon All the women I interviewed held dangerous jobs in Iraq. Find discount diabecon They drove trucks along bomb-ridden roads, find discount diabecon acted as gunners atop tanks and unarmored vehicles, find discount diabecon raided houses, find discount diabecon guarded prisoners, find discount diabecon rescued the wounded in the midst of battle, find discount diabecon and searched Iraqis at checkpoints. Find discount diabecon Some watched their best friends die, find discount diabecon some were wounded, find discount diabecon all saw the death and mutilation of Iraqi children and citizens. Find discount diabecon Yet, find discount diabecon despite the equal risks women are taking, find discount diabecon they are still being treated as inferior soldiers and sex toys by many of their male colleagues. Find discount diabecon As Pickett told me, find discount diabecon "It's like sending three women to live in a frat house." Rape, find discount diabecon sexual assault and harassment are nothing new to the military. Find discount diabecon They were a serious problem for the Women's Army Corps in Vietnam, find discount diabecon and the rapes and sexual hounding of Navy women at Tailhook in 1991 and of Army women at Aberdeen in 1996 became national news. Find discount diabecon A 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. Find discount diabecon A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all the wars since, find discount diabecon who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, find discount diabecon found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military. Find discount diabecon And in a third study, find discount diabecon conducted in 1992-93 with female veterans of the Gulf War and earlier wars, find discount diabecon 90 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the military, find discount diabecon which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at. Find discount diabecon "That's one of the things I hated the most, find discount diabecon" said Caryle García, find discount diabecon 24, find discount diabecon who, find discount diabecon like Naylor, find discount diabecon served with the Combat Military Police in Baghdad from 2003-04. Find discount diabecon García was wounded by a roadside bomb, find discount diabecon which knocked her unconscious and filled her with shrapnel. Find discount diabecon "You walk into the chow hall and there's a bunch of guys who just stop eating and stare at you. Find discount diabecon Every time you bend down, find discount diabecon somebody will say something. Find discount diabecon It got to the point where I was afraid to walk past certain people because I didn't want to hear their comments. Find discount diabecon It really gets you down." "There are only three kinds of female the men let you be in the military: a bitch, find discount diabecon a ho or a dyke, find discount diabecon" said Montoya, find discount diabecon the soldier who carried a knife for protection. Find discount diabecon "This guy out there, find discount diabecon he told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. Find discount diabecon He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, find discount diabecon but they don't have those in Iraq. Find discount diabecon So they have women soldiers instead." Pickett heard the same attitude from her fellow soldiers. Find discount diabecon "My engineering company was in the first Gulf War, find discount diabecon and back then it had only two females, find discount diabecon" she said. Find discount diabecon "One was labeled a whore because she had a boyfriend, find discount diabecon and the other one was a bitch because she wouldn't sleep around. Find discount diabecon And that's how they were still referred to all these years later." In the current Iraq war, find discount diabecon which Pickett spent refueling and driving trucks over the bomb-ridden roads, find discount diabecon she was one of 19 women in a 160-troop unit. Find discount diabecon She said the men imported cases of porn, find discount diabecon and talked such filth at the women all the time that she became worn down by it. Find discount diabecon "We shouldn't have to think every day, find discount diabecon 'How am I going to go out there and deal with being harassed?'" she said. Find discount diabecon "We should just have to think about going out and doing our job." Pickett herself was sexually attacked when she was training in Nicaragua before being deployed to Iraq. Find discount diabecon "I was sexually assaulted by a superior officer when I was 19, find discount diabecon but I didn't know where to turn, find discount diabecon so I never reported it, find discount diabecon" she told me. Find discount diabecon Jennifer Spranger, find discount diabecon 23, find discount diabecon who was deployed at the beginning of the war with the Military Police to build and guard Camp Bucca, find discount diabecon a prison camp for Iraqis, find discount diabecon had a similar experience. Find discount diabecon "My team leader offered me up to $250 for a hand job. Find discount diabecon He would always make sure that we were out alone together at the beginning, find discount diabecon and he wouldn't stop pressuring me for sex. Find discount diabecon If somebody did that to my daughter I'd want to kill the guy. Find discount diabecon But you can't fit in if you make waves about it. Find discount diabecon You rat somebody out, find discount diabecon you're screwed. Find discount diabecon You're gonna be a loner until they eventually push you out." Spranger and several other women told me the military climate is so severe on whistle-blowers that even they regarded the women who reported rape as incapable traitors. Find discount diabecon You have to handle it on your own and shut up, find discount diabecon is how they saw it. Find discount diabecon Only on their return home, find discount diabecon with time and distance, find discount diabecon did they become outraged at how much sexual persecution of women goes on. Find discount diabecon Having the courage to report a rape is difficult enough for civilians, find discount diabecon where unsympathetic police, find discount diabecon victim-blaming myths, find discount diabecon and simple fear prevent 59 percent of rapes from being reported, find discount diabecon according to the U.S. Find discount diabecon Bureau of Justice. Find discount diabecon But within the military, find discount diabecon reporting is even more risky. Find discount diabecon Military platoons are enclosed, find discount diabecon hierarchical societies, find discount diabecon riddled with gossip, find discount diabecon so any woman who reports a rape has no realistic chance of remaining anonymous. Find discount diabecon She will have to face her assailant day after day, find discount diabecon and put up with rumors, find discount diabecon resentment and blame from other soldiers. Find discount diabecon Furthermore, find discount diabecon she runs the risk of being punished by her assailant if he is her superior. Find discount diabecon These barriers to reporting are so well recognized that even the Defense Department has been scrambling to mend the situation, find discount diabecon at least for the public eye. Find discount diabecon It won't go so far as to actually gather statistics on rape and assault in Iraq (it only counts reported rapes in raw numbers for all combat areas in the Middle East combined), find discount diabecon but in 2006 the DOD did finally wake up to the idea that anonymous reporting might help women come forward, find discount diabecon and updated its Web site accordingly. Find discount diabecon The Web site looks good, find discount diabecon although some may object that it seems to pay more attention to telling women how to avoid an assault than telling men not to commit one. Find discount diabecon It defines rape, find discount diabecon sexual assault and harassment, find discount diabecon and makes clear that these behaviors are illegal. Find discount diabecon The site now also explains that a soldier can report a rape anonymously to a special department, find discount diabecon SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response), find discount diabecon without triggering an official investigation -- a procedure called "restricted reporting." And it promises the soldier a victim's advocate and medical care. Find discount diabecon On closer scrutiny, find discount diabecon however, find discount diabecon the picture is less rosy: Only active and federal duty soldiers can go to SAPR for help, find discount diabecon which means that neither inactive reservists nor veterans are eligible; soldiers are encouraged to report rapes to a chaplain, find discount diabecon and chaplains are not trained as rape counselors; if soldiers tell a friend about an assault, find discount diabecon that friend is legally obliged to report it to officials; soldiers must disclose their rank, find discount diabecon gender, find discount diabecon age, find discount diabecon race, find discount diabecon service, find discount diabecon and the date, find discount diabecon time and/or location of the assault, find discount diabecon which in the closed world of a military unit hardly amounts to anonymity; and, find discount diabecon in practice, find discount diabecon since most people in the Army are men, find discount diabecon the soldier will likely find herself reporting her sexual assault to a man -- something rape counselors know does not work. Find discount diabecon Worse, find discount diabecon no measures will be taken against the accused assailant unless the victim agrees to stop being anonymous. Find discount diabecon The DOD insists on the success of its reforms, find discount diabecon the proof being that the number of reported military sexual assaults rose by 1, find discount diabecon700 from 2004 to a total of 2, find discount diabecon374 in 2005. Find discount diabecon "The success of the SAPR program is in direct correlation with the increased numbers of reported sexual assaults, find discount diabecon" Cynthia Smith, find discount diabecon a Defense Department spokeswoman, find discount diabecon wrote to me in an e-mail. Find discount diabecon In fact, find discount diabecon as anyone familiar with sexual assault statistics knows, find discount diabecon nobody can ever tell whether increases in rape rates are due to more reporting or more rapes. Find discount diabecon My own interviewees and advocates on behalf of women veterans say these reforms are not working. Find discount diabecon They say there is a huge gap between what the military promises to do on its Web site and what it does in practice, find discount diabecon and that the traditional view that reporting an assault betrays your fellow soldiers still prevails. Find discount diabecon "Are soldiers who report sexual assaults in the military still seen as betraying their comrades?" I asked Smith. Find discount diabecon "Our soldiers are being fully trained that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime, find discount diabecon" she wrote in reply. Find discount diabecon "In that training, find discount diabecon not reporting a sexual assault is the betrayal to their comrades." Back in real life, find discount diabecon Pickett watched several of her friends try to report sexual harassment and assault since the 2005 reforms, find discount diabecon and she said that none of them were sent a victim's advocate, find discount diabecon a counselor or a chaplain. Find discount diabecon "These women are turning perpetrators in and they're not getting anyone to speak on their behalf, find discount diabecon" she told me. Find discount diabecon "There's no one sitting in that room with you, find discount diabecon so you're feeling all alone." In the end, find discount diabecon she added, find discount diabecon it boils down to the woman's word vs. Find discount diabecon the man's, find discount diabecon and he is the one with the advocate, find discount diabecon not her. Find discount diabecon Meanwhile, find discount diabecon the studies I have cited, find discount diabecon along with the other past and present studies of veterans, find discount diabecon who feel freer to talk than soldiers because they are out of the military, find discount diabecon show that women soldiers are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of military sexual abuse. Find discount diabecon All soldiers with PTSD come home to some combination of sleeplessness, find discount diabecon nightmares, find discount diabecon bursts of temper, find discount diabecon flashbacks, find discount diabecon panic attacks, find discount diabecon fear and an inability to cope with everyday life. Find discount diabecon They often turn to drugs or alcohol for escape. Find discount diabecon Some become depressed, find discount diabecon others commit suicide. Find discount diabecon Many are too emotionally numb to relate to their families or children. Find discount diabecon But those who have been sexually assaulted also lose their self-respect, find discount diabecon feel they have lost control over their lives, find discount diabecon and are particularly prone to self-destruction. Find discount diabecon I have yet to meet an Iraq war veteran of either sex who does not suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, find discount diabecon but officially the number of Iraq veterans with PTSD is estimated to be about 30 percent for those newly back from war, find discount diabecon according to a 2004 study of combat veterans in the New England Journal of Medicine. Find discount diabecon The extent and severity of PTSD in women who have had to cope with both combat and sexual assault in Iraq is still being studied, find discount diabecon but as it is known that these are two of the highest predictors of PTSD, find discount diabecon it is logical to assume that the combination is pretty bad. Find discount diabecon "When you are sexually assaulted by people who are your comrades, find discount diabecon PTSD can be worse than in other circumstances, find discount diabecon" said Paula Shnurr, find discount diabecon a research professor of psychiatry who conducted a new Veterans Administration study of therapy for women veterans with PTSD, find discount diabecon published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Find discount diabecon "You feel incompetent and helpless, find discount diabecon like children feel when abused by the very people who are supposed to look after them, find discount diabecon" Schnurr told me. Find discount diabecon "The people you depend on have attacked you." I am not claiming that sexual persecution is universal in the military, find discount diabecon or that it is inevitable. Find discount diabecon Several soldiers I interviewed told me that if a commander won't tolerate the mistreatment of women, find discount diabecon it will not happen, find discount diabecon and studies back this up. Find discount diabecon Jennifer Hogg, find discount diabecon 22, find discount diabecon who was a sergeant in the Army's National Guard, find discount diabecon said her company treated her well because she had a commander who wouldn't permit the mistreatment of women. Find discount diabecon But another National Guard soldier, find discount diabecon Demond Mullins, find discount diabecon 25, find discount diabecon who served with the infantry in Iraq for a year from 2004-05, find discount diabecon told me that a commander in his camp turned a blind eye to rape all the time. Find discount diabecon "Rapes were happening every night, find discount diabecon" he said. Find discount diabecon "One time a woman was taking a shower late, find discount diabecon and guys went and held the door closed so she couldn't get out, find discount diabecon while the others went in to rape her. Find discount diabecon Married men were doing it, find discount diabecon everyone." Some commanders not only turn a blind eye to assault and harassment but engage in it themselves, find discount diabecon a phenomenon known in the military as "command rape." Because the military is hierarchical, find discount diabecon and because soldiers are trained to obey and never question their superiors, find discount diabecon men of rank can assault their juniors with impunity. Find discount diabecon In most cases, find discount diabecon women soldiers are the juniors, find discount diabecon 18 to 20 year old, find discount diabecon and are new to the military and war, find discount diabecon thus vulnerable to bullying and exploitation. Find discount diabecon Callie Wight, find discount diabecon a psychosocial counselor in women veterans' health in Los Angeles, find discount diabecon has been treating women who were sexually assaulted in the military for the past 11 years. Find discount diabecon In all that time, find discount diabecon she told me, find discount diabecon she has only seen a handful of cases where a woman reported an assault to her commander with any success in getting the assailant punished. Find discount diabecon "Most commanders dismiss it, find discount diabecon" she said. Find discount diabecon A nine-month study of military rape by the Denver Post in 2003 found that nearly 5, find discount diabecon000 accused military sex offenders had avoided prosecution since 1992. Find discount diabecon At the moment, find discount diabecon the most shocking case of military sexual assault is that of Army Spc. Find discount diabecon Suzanne Swift, find discount diabecon 21, find discount diabecon who served in Iraq in 2004. Find discount diabecon Swift was coerced into sex by one commanding officer, find discount diabecon which is legally defined as rape by the military, find discount diabecon and harassed by two others before she finally broke rank and told. Find discount diabecon As a result, find discount diabecon the other soldiers treated her like a traitor for months. Find discount diabecon Unable to face returning to the assailant, find discount diabecon she went AWOL during a leave at home, find discount diabecon and was arrested and put in jail for desertion. Find discount diabecon At first the Army offered her a deal: It would reduce her punishment if Swift would sign a statement saying that she had never been raped. Find discount diabecon She refused, find discount diabecon saying she wouldn't let the Army force her to lie. Find discount diabecon The Army court-martialed Swift, find discount diabecon and stripped her of her rank. Find discount diabecon She spent December in prison and was then sent to Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, find discount diabecon far away from her family. Find discount diabecon She must stay in the Army for two more years, find discount diabecon and may face redeployment. Find discount diabecon The men who assaulted her received nothing but reprimanding letters. Find discount diabecon Swift's mother, find discount diabecon Sara Rich, find discount diabecon has set up a Web site with a petition calling for her daughter's release: More than 6, find discount diabecon700 veterans and soldiers have signed it, find discount diabecon and 102 of them signed their names to stories of their own sexual persecution in the military. Find discount diabecon Swift's case, find discount diabecon and those of her petitioners, find discount diabecon illustrate the real attitude of the military toward women and sexual assault, find discount diabecon the one that underlies its fancy Web site and claims that it supports soldiers who've been raped. Find discount diabecon The real attitude is this: If you tell, find discount diabecon you are going to get punished. Find discount diabecon The assailant, find discount diabecon meanwhile, find discount diabecon will go free. Find discount diabecon Which brings up an issue that lies at the core of every soldier's heart: comradeship. Find discount diabecon It is for their comrades that soldiers enlist and reenlist. Find discount diabecon It is for their "battle buddies" that they risk their lives and put up with all the miseries of sandstorms, find discount diabecon polluted water, find discount diabecon lack of sanitation, find discount diabecon and danger. Find discount diabecon Soldiers go back to Iraq, find discount diabecon even if they've turned against the war, find discount diabecon so as not to let their buddies down. Find discount diabecon Comradeship is what gets men through war, find discount diabecon and is what has always got men through war. Find discount diabecon You protect your battle buddy, find discount diabecon and your battle buddy protects you. Find discount diabecon As an Iraq veteran put it to me, find discount diabecon "There's nobody you love like you love a person who's willing to take a bullet for you." So how does this work for women? A few find buddies among the other women in their squads, find discount diabecon but for most there are no other women, find discount diabecon so their battle buddies are men. Find discount diabecon Some of these men are trustworthy. Find discount diabecon Many are not. Find discount diabecon How can a man who pressures you for sex every day, find discount diabecon who treats you like a prostitute, find discount diabecon who threatens or punishes you if you refuse him, find discount diabecon or who actually attacks you, find discount diabecon be counted on to watch your back in battle? "Battle buddy bullshit, find discount diabecon" said Garcéa from the Military Police. Find discount diabecon "I didn't trust anybody in my company after a few months. Find discount diabecon I saw so many girls get screwed over, find discount diabecon the sexual harassment. Find discount diabecon I didn't trust anybody and I still don't." If this is a result of the way women are treated in the military, find discount diabecon where does it leave them when it comes to battle camaraderie? I asked soldier after soldier this, find discount diabecon and they all gave me the same answer: Alone.