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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 parlodel online "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis, order parlodel online" says one woman. Order parlodel online "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 parlodel online000 more troops, order parlodel online I can't help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. Order parlodel online And I don't mean only the hardships of war, order parlodel online the killing of civilians, order parlodel online the bombs and mortars, order parlodel online the heat and sleeplessness and fear. Order parlodel online I mean from their own comrades -- the men. Order parlodel online I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, order parlodel online interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, order parlodel online 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 parlodel online The female soldiers who were at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, order parlodel online for example, order parlodel online where U.S. Order parlodel online troops go to demobilize, order parlodel online told me they were warned not to go out at night alone. Order parlodel online "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 parlodel online" said Abbie Pickett, order parlodel online 24, order parlodel online a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Order parlodel online Yet, order parlodel online she points out, order parlodel online this is a base, order parlodel online where soldiers are supposed to be safe. Order parlodel online Spc. Order parlodel online Mickiela Montoya, order parlodel online 21, order parlodel online who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, order parlodel online took to carrying a knife with her at all times. Order parlodel online "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis, order parlodel online" she told me. Order parlodel online "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 parlodel online but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Order parlodel online Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. Order parlodel online As a result, order parlodel online 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 parlodel online It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online with a greater number of women serving in Iraq than ever before, order parlodel online these measures are not keeping women safe. Order parlodel online When you add in the high numbers of war-wrecked soldiers being redeployed, order parlodel online and the fact that the military is waiving criminal and violent records for more than one in 10 new Army recruits, order parlodel online the picture for women looks bleak indeed. Order parlodel online Last year, order parlodel online Col. Order parlodel online Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, order parlodel online three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, order parlodel online which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, order parlodel online because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. Order parlodel online They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark. Order parlodel online The Army has called her charges unsubstantiated, order parlodel online but Karpinski told me she sticks by them. Order parlodel online (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 parlodel online As the highest-ranking official to lose her job over the torture scandal, order parlodel online she claims she was scapegoated, order parlodel online and has become an outspoken critic of the military's treatment of women. Order parlodel online In turn, order parlodel online 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 parlodel online" Karpinski told me. Order parlodel online "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 parlodel online she explained, order parlodel online and male soldiers were jumping women who went to them at night, order parlodel online dragging them into the Port-a-Johns, order parlodel online and raping or abusing them. Order parlodel online "In that heat, order parlodel online if you don't hydrate for as many hours as you've been out on duty, order parlodel online day after day, order parlodel online you can die." She said the deaths were reported as non-hostile fatalities, order parlodel online with no further explanation. Order parlodel online Not everyone realizes how different the Iraq war is for women than any other American war in history. Order parlodel online More than 160, order parlodel online500 American female soldiers have served in Iraq, order parlodel online Afghanistan and the Middle East since the war began in 2003, order parlodel online which means one in seven soldiers is a woman. Order parlodel online Women now make up 15 percent of active duty forces, order parlodel online four times more than in the 1991 Gulf War. Order parlodel online At least 450 women have been wounded in Iraq, order parlodel online and 71 have died -- more female casualties and deaths than in the Korean, order parlodel online Vietnam and first Gulf Wars combined. Order parlodel online And women are fighting in combat. Order parlodel online Officially, order parlodel online the Pentagon prohibits women from serving in ground combat units such as the infantry, order parlodel online citing their lack of upper-body strength and a reluctance to put girls and mothers in harm's way. Order parlodel online But mention this ban to any female soldier in Iraq and she will scoff. Order parlodel online "Of course we were in combat!" said Laura Naylor, order parlodel online 25, order parlodel online who served with the Army Combat Military Police in Baghdad from 2003-04. Order parlodel online "We were interchangeable with the infantry. Order parlodel online They came to our police stations and helped pull security, order parlodel online and we helped them search houses and search people. Order parlodel online That's how it is in Iraq." Women are fighting in ground combat because there is no choice. Order parlodel online This is a war with no front lines or safe zones, order parlodel online no hiding from in-flying mortars, order parlodel online car and roadside bombs, order parlodel online and not enough soldiers. Order parlodel online As a result, order parlodel online women are coming home with missing limbs, order parlodel online mutilating wounds and severe trauma, order parlodel online just like the men. Order parlodel online All the women I interviewed held dangerous jobs in Iraq. Order parlodel online They drove trucks along bomb-ridden roads, order parlodel online acted as gunners atop tanks and unarmored vehicles, order parlodel online raided houses, order parlodel online guarded prisoners, order parlodel online rescued the wounded in the midst of battle, order parlodel online and searched Iraqis at checkpoints. Order parlodel online Some watched their best friends die, order parlodel online some were wounded, order parlodel online all saw the death and mutilation of Iraqi children and citizens. Order parlodel online Yet, order parlodel online despite the equal risks women are taking, order parlodel online they are still being treated as inferior soldiers and sex toys by many of their male colleagues. Order parlodel online As Pickett told me, order parlodel online "It's like sending three women to live in a frat house." Rape, order parlodel online sexual assault and harassment are nothing new to the military. Order parlodel online They were a serious problem for the Women's Army Corps in Vietnam, order parlodel online 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 parlodel online 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 parlodel online A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all the wars since, order parlodel online who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, order parlodel online found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military. Order parlodel online And in a third study, order parlodel online conducted in 1992-93 with female veterans of the Gulf War and earlier wars, order parlodel online 90 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the military, order parlodel online which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at. Order parlodel online "That's one of the things I hated the most, order parlodel online" said Caryle García, order parlodel online 24, order parlodel online who, order parlodel online like Naylor, order parlodel online served with the Combat Military Police in Baghdad from 2003-04. Order parlodel online García was wounded by a roadside bomb, order parlodel online which knocked her unconscious and filled her with shrapnel. Order parlodel online "You walk into the chow hall and there's a bunch of guys who just stop eating and stare at you. Order parlodel online Every time you bend down, order parlodel online somebody will say something. Order parlodel online It got to the point where I was afraid to walk past certain people because I didn't want to hear their comments. Order parlodel online It really gets you down." "There are only three kinds of female the men let you be in the military: a bitch, order parlodel online a ho or a dyke, order parlodel online" said Montoya, order parlodel online the soldier who carried a knife for protection. Order parlodel online "This guy out there, order parlodel online he told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. Order parlodel online He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, order parlodel online but they don't have those in Iraq. Order parlodel online So they have women soldiers instead." Pickett heard the same attitude from her fellow soldiers. Order parlodel online "My engineering company was in the first Gulf War, order parlodel online and back then it had only two females, order parlodel online" she said. Order parlodel online "One was labeled a whore because she had a boyfriend, order parlodel online and the other one was a bitch because she wouldn't sleep around. Order parlodel online And that's how they were still referred to all these years later." In the current Iraq war, order parlodel online which Pickett spent refueling and driving trucks over the bomb-ridden roads, order parlodel online she was one of 19 women in a 160-troop unit. Order parlodel online She said the men imported cases of porn, order parlodel online and talked such filth at the women all the time that she became worn down by it. Order parlodel online "We shouldn't have to think every day, order parlodel online 'How am I going to go out there and deal with being harassed?'" she said. Order parlodel online "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 parlodel online "I was sexually assaulted by a superior officer when I was 19, order parlodel online but I didn't know where to turn, order parlodel online so I never reported it, order parlodel online" she told me. Order parlodel online Jennifer Spranger, order parlodel online 23, order parlodel online who was deployed at the beginning of the war with the Military Police to build and guard Camp Bucca, order parlodel online a prison camp for Iraqis, order parlodel online had a similar experience. Order parlodel online "My team leader offered me up to $250 for a hand job. Order parlodel online He would always make sure that we were out alone together at the beginning, order parlodel online and he wouldn't stop pressuring me for sex. Order parlodel online If somebody did that to my daughter I'd want to kill the guy. Order parlodel online But you can't fit in if you make waves about it. Order parlodel online You rat somebody out, order parlodel online you're screwed. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online You have to handle it on your own and shut up, order parlodel online is how they saw it. Order parlodel online Only on their return home, order parlodel online with time and distance, order parlodel online did they become outraged at how much sexual persecution of women goes on. Order parlodel online Having the courage to report a rape is difficult enough for civilians, order parlodel online where unsympathetic police, order parlodel online victim-blaming myths, order parlodel online and simple fear prevent 59 percent of rapes from being reported, order parlodel online according to the U.S. Order parlodel online Bureau of Justice. Order parlodel online But within the military, order parlodel online reporting is even more risky. Order parlodel online Military platoons are enclosed, order parlodel online hierarchical societies, order parlodel online riddled with gossip, order parlodel online so any woman who reports a rape has no realistic chance of remaining anonymous. Order parlodel online She will have to face her assailant day after day, order parlodel online and put up with rumors, order parlodel online resentment and blame from other soldiers. Order parlodel online Furthermore, order parlodel online she runs the risk of being punished by her assailant if he is her superior. Order parlodel online These barriers to reporting are so well recognized that even the Defense Department has been scrambling to mend the situation, order parlodel online at least for the public eye. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online but in 2006 the DOD did finally wake up to the idea that anonymous reporting might help women come forward, order parlodel online and updated its Web site accordingly. Order parlodel online The Web site looks good, order parlodel online 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 parlodel online It defines rape, order parlodel online sexual assault and harassment, order parlodel online and makes clear that these behaviors are illegal. Order parlodel online The site now also explains that a soldier can report a rape anonymously to a special department, order parlodel online SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response), order parlodel online without triggering an official investigation -- a procedure called "restricted reporting." And it promises the soldier a victim's advocate and medical care. Order parlodel online On closer scrutiny, order parlodel online however, order parlodel online the picture is less rosy: Only active and federal duty soldiers can go to SAPR for help, order parlodel online which means that neither inactive reservists nor veterans are eligible; soldiers are encouraged to report rapes to a chaplain, order parlodel online and chaplains are not trained as rape counselors; if soldiers tell a friend about an assault, order parlodel online that friend is legally obliged to report it to officials; soldiers must disclose their rank, order parlodel online gender, order parlodel online age, order parlodel online race, order parlodel online service, order parlodel online and the date, order parlodel online time and/or location of the assault, order parlodel online which in the closed world of a military unit hardly amounts to anonymity; and, order parlodel online in practice, order parlodel online since most people in the Army are men, order parlodel online the soldier will likely find herself reporting her sexual assault to a man -- something rape counselors know does not work. Order parlodel online Worse, order parlodel online no measures will be taken against the accused assailant unless the victim agrees to stop being anonymous. Order parlodel online The DOD insists on the success of its reforms, order parlodel online the proof being that the number of reported military sexual assaults rose by 1, order parlodel online700 from 2004 to a total of 2, order parlodel online374 in 2005. Order parlodel online "The success of the SAPR program is in direct correlation with the increased numbers of reported sexual assaults, order parlodel online" Cynthia Smith, order parlodel online a Defense Department spokeswoman, order parlodel online wrote to me in an e-mail. Order parlodel online In fact, order parlodel online as anyone familiar with sexual assault statistics knows, order parlodel online nobody can ever tell whether increases in rape rates are due to more reporting or more rapes. Order parlodel online My own interviewees and advocates on behalf of women veterans say these reforms are not working. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online and that the traditional view that reporting an assault betrays your fellow soldiers still prevails. Order parlodel online "Are soldiers who report sexual assaults in the military still seen as betraying their comrades?" I asked Smith. Order parlodel online "Our soldiers are being fully trained that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime, order parlodel online" she wrote in reply. Order parlodel online "In that training, order parlodel online not reporting a sexual assault is the betrayal to their comrades." Back in real life, order parlodel online Pickett watched several of her friends try to report sexual harassment and assault since the 2005 reforms, order parlodel online and she said that none of them were sent a victim's advocate, order parlodel online a counselor or a chaplain. Order parlodel online "These women are turning perpetrators in and they're not getting anyone to speak on their behalf, order parlodel online" she told me. Order parlodel online "There's no one sitting in that room with you, order parlodel online so you're feeling all alone." In the end, order parlodel online she added, order parlodel online it boils down to the woman's word vs. Order parlodel online the man's, order parlodel online and he is the one with the advocate, order parlodel online not her. Order parlodel online Meanwhile, order parlodel online the studies I have cited, order parlodel online along with the other past and present studies of veterans, order parlodel online who feel freer to talk than soldiers because they are out of the military, order parlodel online show that women soldiers are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of military sexual abuse. Order parlodel online All soldiers with PTSD come home to some combination of sleeplessness, order parlodel online nightmares, order parlodel online bursts of temper, order parlodel online flashbacks, order parlodel online panic attacks, order parlodel online fear and an inability to cope with everyday life. Order parlodel online They often turn to drugs or alcohol for escape. Order parlodel online Some become depressed, order parlodel online others commit suicide. Order parlodel online Many are too emotionally numb to relate to their families or children. Order parlodel online But those who have been sexually assaulted also lose their self-respect, order parlodel online feel they have lost control over their lives, order parlodel online and are particularly prone to self-destruction. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online but officially the number of Iraq veterans with PTSD is estimated to be about 30 percent for those newly back from war, order parlodel online according to a 2004 study of combat veterans in the New England Journal of Medicine. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online but as it is known that these are two of the highest predictors of PTSD, order parlodel online it is logical to assume that the combination is pretty bad. Order parlodel online "When you are sexually assaulted by people who are your comrades, order parlodel online PTSD can be worse than in other circumstances, order parlodel online" said Paula Shnurr, order parlodel online a research professor of psychiatry who conducted a new Veterans Administration study of therapy for women veterans with PTSD, order parlodel online published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Order parlodel online "You feel incompetent and helpless, order parlodel online like children feel when abused by the very people who are supposed to look after them, order parlodel online" Schnurr told me. Order parlodel online "The people you depend on have attacked you." I am not claiming that sexual persecution is universal in the military, order parlodel online or that it is inevitable. Order parlodel online Several soldiers I interviewed told me that if a commander won't tolerate the mistreatment of women, order parlodel online it will not happen, order parlodel online and studies back this up. Order parlodel online Jennifer Hogg, order parlodel online 22, order parlodel online who was a sergeant in the Army's National Guard, order parlodel online said her company treated her well because she had a commander who wouldn't permit the mistreatment of women. Order parlodel online But another National Guard soldier, order parlodel online Demond Mullins, order parlodel online 25, order parlodel online who served with the infantry in Iraq for a year from 2004-05, order parlodel online told me that a commander in his camp turned a blind eye to rape all the time. Order parlodel online "Rapes were happening every night, order parlodel online" he said. Order parlodel online "One time a woman was taking a shower late, order parlodel online and guys went and held the door closed so she couldn't get out, order parlodel online while the others went in to rape her. Order parlodel online Married men were doing it, order parlodel online everyone." Some commanders not only turn a blind eye to assault and harassment but engage in it themselves, order parlodel online a phenomenon known in the military as "command rape." Because the military is hierarchical, order parlodel online and because soldiers are trained to obey and never question their superiors, order parlodel online men of rank can assault their juniors with impunity. Order parlodel online In most cases, order parlodel online women soldiers are the juniors, order parlodel online 18 to 20 year old, order parlodel online and are new to the military and war, order parlodel online thus vulnerable to bullying and exploitation. Order parlodel online Callie Wight, order parlodel online a psychosocial counselor in women veterans' health in Los Angeles, order parlodel online has been treating women who were sexually assaulted in the military for the past 11 years. Order parlodel online In all that time, order parlodel online she told me, order parlodel online 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 parlodel online "Most commanders dismiss it, order parlodel online" she said. Order parlodel online A nine-month study of military rape by the Denver Post in 2003 found that nearly 5, order parlodel online000 accused military sex offenders had avoided prosecution since 1992. Order parlodel online At the moment, order parlodel online the most shocking case of military sexual assault is that of Army Spc. Order parlodel online Suzanne Swift, order parlodel online 21, order parlodel online who served in Iraq in 2004. Order parlodel online Swift was coerced into sex by one commanding officer, order parlodel online which is legally defined as rape by the military, order parlodel online and harassed by two others before she finally broke rank and told. Order parlodel online As a result, order parlodel online the other soldiers treated her like a traitor for months. Order parlodel online Unable to face returning to the assailant, order parlodel online she went AWOL during a leave at home, order parlodel online and was arrested and put in jail for desertion. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online She refused, order parlodel online saying she wouldn't let the Army force her to lie. Order parlodel online The Army court-martialed Swift, order parlodel online and stripped her of her rank. Order parlodel online She spent December in prison and was then sent to Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, order parlodel online far away from her family. Order parlodel online She must stay in the Army for two more years, order parlodel online and may face redeployment. Order parlodel online The men who assaulted her received nothing but reprimanding letters. Order parlodel online Swift's mother, order parlodel online Sara Rich, order parlodel online has set up a Web site with a petition calling for her daughter's release: More than 6, order parlodel online700 veterans and soldiers have signed it, order parlodel online and 102 of them signed their names to stories of their own sexual persecution in the military. Order parlodel online Swift's case, order parlodel online and those of her petitioners, order parlodel online illustrate the real attitude of the military toward women and sexual assault, order parlodel online the one that underlies its fancy Web site and claims that it supports soldiers who've been raped. Order parlodel online The real attitude is this: If you tell, order parlodel online you are going to get punished. Order parlodel online The assailant, order parlodel online meanwhile, order parlodel online will go free. Order parlodel online Which brings up an issue that lies at the core of every soldier's heart: comradeship. Order parlodel online It is for their comrades that soldiers enlist and reenlist. Order parlodel online It is for their "battle buddies" that they risk their lives and put up with all the miseries of sandstorms, order parlodel online polluted water, order parlodel online lack of sanitation, order parlodel online and danger. Order parlodel online Soldiers go back to Iraq, order parlodel online even if they've turned against the war, order parlodel online so as not to let their buddies down. Order parlodel online Comradeship is what gets men through war, order parlodel online and is what has always got men through war. Order parlodel online You protect your battle buddy, order parlodel online and your battle buddy protects you. Order parlodel online As an Iraq veteran put it to me, order parlodel online "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 parlodel online but for most there are no other women, order parlodel online so their battle buddies are men. Order parlodel online Some of these men are trustworthy. Order parlodel online Many are not. Order parlodel online How can a man who pressures you for sex every day, order parlodel online who treats you like a prostitute, order parlodel online who threatens or punishes you if you refuse him, order parlodel online or who actually attacks you, order parlodel online be counted on to watch your back in battle? "Battle buddy bullshit, order parlodel online" said Garcéa from the Military Police. Order parlodel online "I didn't trust anybody in my company after a few months. Order parlodel online I saw so many girls get screwed over, order parlodel online the sexual harassment. Order parlodel online 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 parlodel online where does it leave them when it comes to battle camaraderie? I asked soldier after soldier this, order parlodel online and they all gave me the same answer: Alone.