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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. Order anabolic fusion "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis, order anabolic fusion" says one woman. Order anabolic fusion "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, order anabolic fusion000 more troops, order anabolic fusion I can't help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. Order anabolic fusion And I don't mean only the hardships of war, order anabolic fusion the killing of civilians, order anabolic fusion the bombs and mortars, order anabolic fusion the heat and sleeplessness and fear. Order anabolic fusion I mean from their own comrades -- the men. Order anabolic fusion I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, order anabolic fusion interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, order anabolic fusion 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. Order anabolic fusion The female soldiers who were at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, order anabolic fusion for example, order anabolic fusion where U.S. Order anabolic fusion troops go to demobilize, order anabolic fusion told me they were warned not to go out at night alone. Order anabolic fusion "They call Camp Arifjan 'generator city' because it's so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can't be heard, order anabolic fusion" said Abbie Pickett, order anabolic fusion 24, order anabolic fusion a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Order anabolic fusion Yet, order anabolic fusion she points out, order anabolic fusion this is a base, order anabolic fusion where soldiers are supposed to be safe. Order anabolic fusion Spc. Order anabolic fusion Mickiela Montoya, order anabolic fusion 21, order anabolic fusion who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, order anabolic fusion took to carrying a knife with her at all times. Order anabolic fusion "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis, order anabolic fusion" she told me. Order anabolic fusion "It was for the guys on my own side." Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, order anabolic fusion but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Order anabolic fusion Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. Order anabolic fusion As a result, order anabolic fusion the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. Order anabolic fusion It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. Order anabolic fusion The military's definition of sexual assault includes "rape; nonconsensual sodomy; unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts to commit these acts." Unfortunately, order anabolic fusion with a greater number of women serving in Iraq than ever before, order anabolic fusion these measures are not keeping women safe. Order anabolic fusion When you add in the high numbers of war-wrecked soldiers being redeployed, order anabolic fusion and the fact that the military is waiving criminal and violent records for more than one in 10 new Army recruits, order anabolic fusion the picture for women looks bleak indeed. Order anabolic fusion Last year, order anabolic fusion Col. Order anabolic fusion Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, order anabolic fusion three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, order anabolic fusion which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, order anabolic fusion because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. Order anabolic fusion They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark. Order anabolic fusion The Army has called her charges unsubstantiated, order anabolic fusion but Karpinski told me she sticks by them. Order anabolic fusion (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. Order anabolic fusion As the highest-ranking official to lose her job over the torture scandal, order anabolic fusion she claims she was scapegoated, order anabolic fusion and has become an outspoken critic of the military's treatment of women. Order anabolic fusion In turn, order anabolic fusion 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, order anabolic fusion" Karpinski told me. Order anabolic fusion "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, order anabolic fusion she explained, order anabolic fusion and male soldiers were jumping women who went to them at night, order anabolic fusion dragging them into the Port-a-Johns, order anabolic fusion and raping or abusing them. Order anabolic fusion "In that heat, order anabolic fusion if you don't hydrate for as many hours as you've been out on duty, order anabolic fusion day after day, order anabolic fusion you can die." She said the deaths were reported as non-hostile fatalities, order anabolic fusion with no further explanation. Order anabolic fusion Not everyone realizes how different the Iraq war is for women than any other American war in history. Order anabolic fusion More than 160, order anabolic fusion500 American female soldiers have served in Iraq, order anabolic fusion Afghanistan and the Middle East since the war began in 2003, order anabolic fusion which means one in seven soldiers is a woman. Order anabolic fusion Women now make up 15 percent of active duty forces, order anabolic fusion four times more than in the 1991 Gulf War. Order anabolic fusion At least 450 women have been wounded in Iraq, order anabolic fusion and 71 have died -- more female casualties and deaths than in the Korean, order anabolic fusion Vietnam and first Gulf Wars combined. Order anabolic fusion And women are fighting in combat. Order anabolic fusion Officially, order anabolic fusion the Pentagon prohibits women from serving in ground combat units such as the infantry, order anabolic fusion citing their lack of upper-body strength and a reluctance to put girls and mothers in harm's way. Order anabolic fusion But mention this ban to any female soldier in Iraq and she will scoff. Order anabolic fusion "Of course we were in combat!" said Laura Naylor, order anabolic fusion 25, order anabolic fusion who served with the Army Combat Military Police in Baghdad from 2003-04. Order anabolic fusion "We were interchangeable with the infantry. Order anabolic fusion They came to our police stations and helped pull security, order anabolic fusion and we helped them search houses and search people. Order anabolic fusion That's how it is in Iraq." Women are fighting in ground combat because there is no choice. Order anabolic fusion This is a war with no front lines or safe zones, order anabolic fusion no hiding from in-flying mortars, order anabolic fusion car and roadside bombs, order anabolic fusion and not enough soldiers. Order anabolic fusion As a result, order anabolic fusion women are coming home with missing limbs, order anabolic fusion mutilating wounds and severe trauma, order anabolic fusion just like the men. Order anabolic fusion All the women I interviewed held dangerous jobs in Iraq. Order anabolic fusion They drove trucks along bomb-ridden roads, order anabolic fusion acted as gunners atop tanks and unarmored vehicles, order anabolic fusion raided houses, order anabolic fusion guarded prisoners, order anabolic fusion rescued the wounded in the midst of battle, order anabolic fusion and searched Iraqis at checkpoints. Order anabolic fusion Some watched their best friends die, order anabolic fusion some were wounded, order anabolic fusion all saw the death and mutilation of Iraqi children and citizens. Order anabolic fusion Yet, order anabolic fusion despite the equal risks women are taking, order anabolic fusion they are still being treated as inferior soldiers and sex toys by many of their male colleagues. Order anabolic fusion As Pickett told me, order anabolic fusion "It's like sending three women to live in a frat house." Rape, order anabolic fusion sexual assault and harassment are nothing new to the military. Order anabolic fusion They were a serious problem for the Women's Army Corps in Vietnam, order anabolic fusion and the rapes and sexual hounding of Navy women at Tailhook in 1991 and of Army women at Aberdeen in 1996 became national news. Order anabolic fusion A 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. Order anabolic fusion A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all the wars since, order anabolic fusion who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, order anabolic fusion found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military. Order anabolic fusion And in a third study, order anabolic fusion conducted in 1992-93 with female veterans of the Gulf War and earlier wars, order anabolic fusion 90 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the military, order anabolic fusion which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at. Order anabolic fusion "That's one of the things I hated the most, order anabolic fusion" said Caryle García, order anabolic fusion 24, order anabolic fusion who, order anabolic fusion like Naylor, order anabolic fusion served with the Combat Military Police in Baghdad from 2003-04. Order anabolic fusion García was wounded by a roadside bomb, order anabolic fusion which knocked her unconscious and filled her with shrapnel. Order anabolic fusion "You walk into the chow hall and there's a bunch of guys who just stop eating and stare at you. Order anabolic fusion Every time you bend down, order anabolic fusion somebody will say something. Order anabolic fusion It got to the point where I was afraid to walk past certain people because I didn't want to hear their comments. Order anabolic fusion It really gets you down." "There are only three kinds of female the men let you be in the military: a bitch, order anabolic fusion a ho or a dyke, order anabolic fusion" said Montoya, order anabolic fusion the soldier who carried a knife for protection. Order anabolic fusion "This guy out there, order anabolic fusion he told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. Order anabolic fusion He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, order anabolic fusion but they don't have those in Iraq. Order anabolic fusion So they have women soldiers instead." Pickett heard the same attitude from her fellow soldiers. Order anabolic fusion "My engineering company was in the first Gulf War, order anabolic fusion and back then it had only two females, order anabolic fusion" she said. Order anabolic fusion "One was labeled a whore because she had a boyfriend, order anabolic fusion and the other one was a bitch because she wouldn't sleep around. Order anabolic fusion And that's how they were still referred to all these years later." In the current Iraq war, order anabolic fusion which Pickett spent refueling and driving trucks over the bomb-ridden roads, order anabolic fusion she was one of 19 women in a 160-troop unit. Order anabolic fusion She said the men imported cases of porn, order anabolic fusion and talked such filth at the women all the time that she became worn down by it. Order anabolic fusion "We shouldn't have to think every day, order anabolic fusion 'How am I going to go out there and deal with being harassed?'" she said. Order anabolic fusion "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. Order anabolic fusion "I was sexually assaulted by a superior officer when I was 19, order anabolic fusion but I didn't know where to turn, order anabolic fusion so I never reported it, order anabolic fusion" she told me. Order anabolic fusion Jennifer Spranger, order anabolic fusion 23, order anabolic fusion who was deployed at the beginning of the war with the Military Police to build and guard Camp Bucca, order anabolic fusion a prison camp for Iraqis, order anabolic fusion had a similar experience. Order anabolic fusion "My team leader offered me up to $250 for a hand job. Order anabolic fusion He would always make sure that we were out alone together at the beginning, order anabolic fusion and he wouldn't stop pressuring me for sex. Order anabolic fusion If somebody did that to my daughter I'd want to kill the guy. Order anabolic fusion But you can't fit in if you make waves about it. Order anabolic fusion You rat somebody out, order anabolic fusion you're screwed. Order anabolic fusion 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. Order anabolic fusion You have to handle it on your own and shut up, order anabolic fusion is how they saw it. Order anabolic fusion Only on their return home, order anabolic fusion with time and distance, order anabolic fusion did they become outraged at how much sexual persecution of women goes on. Order anabolic fusion Having the courage to report a rape is difficult enough for civilians, order anabolic fusion where unsympathetic police, order anabolic fusion victim-blaming myths, order anabolic fusion and simple fear prevent 59 percent of rapes from being reported, order anabolic fusion according to the U.S. Order anabolic fusion Bureau of Justice. Order anabolic fusion But within the military, order anabolic fusion reporting is even more risky. Order anabolic fusion Military platoons are enclosed, order anabolic fusion hierarchical societies, order anabolic fusion riddled with gossip, order anabolic fusion so any woman who reports a rape has no realistic chance of remaining anonymous. Order anabolic fusion She will have to face her assailant day after day, order anabolic fusion and put up with rumors, order anabolic fusion resentment and blame from other soldiers. Order anabolic fusion Furthermore, order anabolic fusion she runs the risk of being punished by her assailant if he is her superior. Order anabolic fusion These barriers to reporting are so well recognized that even the Defense Department has been scrambling to mend the situation, order anabolic fusion at least for the public eye. Order anabolic fusion 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), order anabolic fusion but in 2006 the DOD did finally wake up to the idea that anonymous reporting might help women come forward, order anabolic fusion and updated its Web site accordingly. Order anabolic fusion The Web site looks good, order anabolic fusion 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. Order anabolic fusion It defines rape, order anabolic fusion sexual assault and harassment, order anabolic fusion and makes clear that these behaviors are illegal. Order anabolic fusion The site now also explains that a soldier can report a rape anonymously to a special department, order anabolic fusion SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response), order anabolic fusion without triggering an official investigation -- a procedure called "restricted reporting." And it promises the soldier a victim's advocate and medical care. Order anabolic fusion On closer scrutiny, order anabolic fusion however, order anabolic fusion the picture is less rosy: Only active and federal duty soldiers can go to SAPR for help, order anabolic fusion which means that neither inactive reservists nor veterans are eligible; soldiers are encouraged to report rapes to a chaplain, order anabolic fusion and chaplains are not trained as rape counselors; if soldiers tell a friend about an assault, order anabolic fusion that friend is legally obliged to report it to officials; soldiers must disclose their rank, order anabolic fusion gender, order anabolic fusion age, order anabolic fusion race, order anabolic fusion service, order anabolic fusion and the date, order anabolic fusion time and/or location of the assault, order anabolic fusion which in the closed world of a military unit hardly amounts to anonymity; and, order anabolic fusion in practice, order anabolic fusion since most people in the Army are men, order anabolic fusion the soldier will likely find herself reporting her sexual assault to a man -- something rape counselors know does not work. Order anabolic fusion Worse, order anabolic fusion no measures will be taken against the accused assailant unless the victim agrees to stop being anonymous. Order anabolic fusion The DOD insists on the success of its reforms, order anabolic fusion the proof being that the number of reported military sexual assaults rose by 1, order anabolic fusion700 from 2004 to a total of 2, order anabolic fusion374 in 2005. Order anabolic fusion "The success of the SAPR program is in direct correlation with the increased numbers of reported sexual assaults, order anabolic fusion" Cynthia Smith, order anabolic fusion a Defense Department spokeswoman, order anabolic fusion wrote to me in an e-mail. Order anabolic fusion In fact, order anabolic fusion as anyone familiar with sexual assault statistics knows, order anabolic fusion nobody can ever tell whether increases in rape rates are due to more reporting or more rapes. Order anabolic fusion My own interviewees and advocates on behalf of women veterans say these reforms are not working. Order anabolic fusion They say there is a huge gap between what the military promises to do on its Web site and what it does in practice, order anabolic fusion and that the traditional view that reporting an assault betrays your fellow soldiers still prevails. Order anabolic fusion "Are soldiers who report sexual assaults in the military still seen as betraying their comrades?" I asked Smith. Order anabolic fusion "Our soldiers are being fully trained that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime, order anabolic fusion" she wrote in reply. Order anabolic fusion "In that training, order anabolic fusion not reporting a sexual assault is the betrayal to their comrades." Back in real life, order anabolic fusion Pickett watched several of her friends try to report sexual harassment and assault since the 2005 reforms, order anabolic fusion and she said that none of them were sent a victim's advocate, order anabolic fusion a counselor or a chaplain. Order anabolic fusion "These women are turning perpetrators in and they're not getting anyone to speak on their behalf, order anabolic fusion" she told me. Order anabolic fusion "There's no one sitting in that room with you, order anabolic fusion so you're feeling all alone." In the end, order anabolic fusion she added, order anabolic fusion it boils down to the woman's word vs. Order anabolic fusion the man's, order anabolic fusion and he is the one with the advocate, order anabolic fusion not her. Order anabolic fusion Meanwhile, order anabolic fusion the studies I have cited, order anabolic fusion along with the other past and present studies of veterans, order anabolic fusion who feel freer to talk than soldiers because they are out of the military, order anabolic fusion show that women soldiers are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of military sexual abuse. Order anabolic fusion All soldiers with PTSD come home to some combination of sleeplessness, order anabolic fusion nightmares, order anabolic fusion bursts of temper, order anabolic fusion flashbacks, order anabolic fusion panic attacks, order anabolic fusion fear and an inability to cope with everyday life. Order anabolic fusion They often turn to drugs or alcohol for escape. Order anabolic fusion Some become depressed, order anabolic fusion others commit suicide. Order anabolic fusion Many are too emotionally numb to relate to their families or children. Order anabolic fusion But those who have been sexually assaulted also lose their self-respect, order anabolic fusion feel they have lost control over their lives, order anabolic fusion and are particularly prone to self-destruction. Order anabolic fusion I have yet to meet an Iraq war veteran of either sex who does not suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, order anabolic fusion but officially the number of Iraq veterans with PTSD is estimated to be about 30 percent for those newly back from war, order anabolic fusion according to a 2004 study of combat veterans in the New England Journal of Medicine. Order anabolic fusion 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, order anabolic fusion but as it is known that these are two of the highest predictors of PTSD, order anabolic fusion it is logical to assume that the combination is pretty bad. Order anabolic fusion "When you are sexually assaulted by people who are your comrades, order anabolic fusion PTSD can be worse than in other circumstances, order anabolic fusion" said Paula Shnurr, order anabolic fusion a research professor of psychiatry who conducted a new Veterans Administration study of therapy for women veterans with PTSD, order anabolic fusion published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Order anabolic fusion "You feel incompetent and helpless, order anabolic fusion like children feel when abused by the very people who are supposed to look after them, order anabolic fusion" Schnurr told me. Order anabolic fusion "The people you depend on have attacked you." I am not claiming that sexual persecution is universal in the military, order anabolic fusion or that it is inevitable. Order anabolic fusion Several soldiers I interviewed told me that if a commander won't tolerate the mistreatment of women, order anabolic fusion it will not happen, order anabolic fusion and studies back this up. Order anabolic fusion Jennifer Hogg, order anabolic fusion 22, order anabolic fusion who was a sergeant in the Army's National Guard, order anabolic fusion said her company treated her well because she had a commander who wouldn't permit the mistreatment of women. Order anabolic fusion But another National Guard soldier, order anabolic fusion Demond Mullins, order anabolic fusion 25, order anabolic fusion who served with the infantry in Iraq for a year from 2004-05, order anabolic fusion told me that a commander in his camp turned a blind eye to rape all the time. Order anabolic fusion "Rapes were happening every night, order anabolic fusion" he said. Order anabolic fusion "One time a woman was taking a shower late, order anabolic fusion and guys went and held the door closed so she couldn't get out, order anabolic fusion while the others went in to rape her. Order anabolic fusion Married men were doing it, order anabolic fusion everyone." Some commanders not only turn a blind eye to assault and harassment but engage in it themselves, order anabolic fusion a phenomenon known in the military as "command rape." Because the military is hierarchical, order anabolic fusion and because soldiers are trained to obey and never question their superiors, order anabolic fusion men of rank can assault their juniors with impunity. Order anabolic fusion In most cases, order anabolic fusion women soldiers are the juniors, order anabolic fusion 18 to 20 year old, order anabolic fusion and are new to the military and war, order anabolic fusion thus vulnerable to bullying and exploitation. Order anabolic fusion Callie Wight, order anabolic fusion a psychosocial counselor in women veterans' health in Los Angeles, order anabolic fusion has been treating women who were sexually assaulted in the military for the past 11 years. Order anabolic fusion In all that time, order anabolic fusion she told me, order anabolic fusion 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. Order anabolic fusion "Most commanders dismiss it, order anabolic fusion" she said. Order anabolic fusion A nine-month study of military rape by the Denver Post in 2003 found that nearly 5, order anabolic fusion000 accused military sex offenders had avoided prosecution since 1992. Order anabolic fusion At the moment, order anabolic fusion the most shocking case of military sexual assault is that of Army Spc. Order anabolic fusion Suzanne Swift, order anabolic fusion 21, order anabolic fusion who served in Iraq in 2004. Order anabolic fusion Swift was coerced into sex by one commanding officer, order anabolic fusion which is legally defined as rape by the military, order anabolic fusion and harassed by two others before she finally broke rank and told. Order anabolic fusion As a result, order anabolic fusion the other soldiers treated her like a traitor for months. Order anabolic fusion Unable to face returning to the assailant, order anabolic fusion she went AWOL during a leave at home, order anabolic fusion and was arrested and put in jail for desertion. Order anabolic fusion 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. Order anabolic fusion She refused, order anabolic fusion saying she wouldn't let the Army force her to lie. Order anabolic fusion The Army court-martialed Swift, order anabolic fusion and stripped her of her rank. Order anabolic fusion She spent December in prison and was then sent to Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, order anabolic fusion far away from her family. Order anabolic fusion She must stay in the Army for two more years, order anabolic fusion and may face redeployment. Order anabolic fusion The men who assaulted her received nothing but reprimanding letters. Order anabolic fusion Swift's mother, order anabolic fusion Sara Rich, order anabolic fusion has set up a Web site with a petition calling for her daughter's release: More than 6, order anabolic fusion700 veterans and soldiers have signed it, order anabolic fusion and 102 of them signed their names to stories of their own sexual persecution in the military. Order anabolic fusion Swift's case, order anabolic fusion and those of her petitioners, order anabolic fusion illustrate the real attitude of the military toward women and sexual assault, order anabolic fusion the one that underlies its fancy Web site and claims that it supports soldiers who've been raped. Order anabolic fusion The real attitude is this: If you tell, order anabolic fusion you are going to get punished. Order anabolic fusion The assailant, order anabolic fusion meanwhile, order anabolic fusion will go free. Order anabolic fusion Which brings up an issue that lies at the core of every soldier's heart: comradeship. Order anabolic fusion It is for their comrades that soldiers enlist and reenlist. Order anabolic fusion It is for their "battle buddies" that they risk their lives and put up with all the miseries of sandstorms, order anabolic fusion polluted water, order anabolic fusion lack of sanitation, order anabolic fusion and danger. Order anabolic fusion Soldiers go back to Iraq, order anabolic fusion even if they've turned against the war, order anabolic fusion so as not to let their buddies down. Order anabolic fusion Comradeship is what gets men through war, order anabolic fusion and is what has always got men through war. Order anabolic fusion You protect your battle buddy, order anabolic fusion and your battle buddy protects you. Order anabolic fusion As an Iraq veteran put it to me, order anabolic fusion "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, order anabolic fusion but for most there are no other women, order anabolic fusion so their battle buddies are men. Order anabolic fusion Some of these men are trustworthy. Order anabolic fusion Many are not. Order anabolic fusion How can a man who pressures you for sex every day, order anabolic fusion who treats you like a prostitute, order anabolic fusion who threatens or punishes you if you refuse him, order anabolic fusion or who actually attacks you, order anabolic fusion be counted on to watch your back in battle? "Battle buddy bullshit, order anabolic fusion" said Garcéa from the Military Police. Order anabolic fusion "I didn't trust anybody in my company after a few months. Order anabolic fusion I saw so many girls get screwed over, order anabolic fusion the sexual harassment. Order anabolic fusion I didn't trust anybody and I still don't." If this is a result of the way women are treated in the military, order anabolic fusion where does it leave them when it comes to battle camaraderie? I asked soldier after soldier this, order anabolic fusion and they all gave me the same answer: Alone.