[TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE]
By Ole Ole Olson
According to NPR, “In 2003, a survey of female veterans found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving. And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed.”
The BBC recently reported on The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq by Helen Benedict. This book examines the extreme difficulties female soldiers have in serving abroad. Benedict interviewed several women in the military to get a deeper understanding of the issue, and some of their stories were real eye openers.
Army specialist Chantelle Henneberry spoke of some of her experiences in Iraq, “Everybody’s supposed to have a battle buddy in the army, and females are supposed to have one to go to the latrines with, or to the showers – that’s so you don’t get raped by one of the men on your own side. But because I was the only female there, I didn’t have a battle buddy. My battle buddy was my gun and my knife.”
Another study concluded that 90% of all women serving are sexually harassed. Another one estimates that 90% of all the rapes do not get reported, despite supposedly easier ways to report the crime with confidentiality since 2005. Either way, this appears to be an epidemic that needs to be dealt with.
An online discussion from a former soldier whose identity is being protected had this to say, “At least a rape ends. It’s the day-to-day degradation that eats at you. None of my friends who were raped on active duty reported it. Or if we tried, we were told to shut up for ‘morale.’ Working with your rapist on a daily basis isn’t a lot of fun, believe me.”
How the military is dealing with this appears to demonstrate a pattern of sweeping it under the rug. In 2008, 62% of those that were convicted of sexual assault or rape received very lenient punishments such as demotion, suspension, or a written reprimand.
This problem is not confined to the US military either. This abuse is rampant among private defense contractors overseas as well, as recently highlighted by the recent press about Jamie Leigh Jones. Ms. Jones was in Iraq in 2005 when seven Halliburton/KBR employees drugged and brutally gang-raped her. Her injuries were so extensive that she had lacerations to her vagina and anus, her breast implants were ruptured, and her pectoral muscles torn. The response of KBR was to lock her in a shipping container with only a bed, and to deny her food, water, and medical treatment. The rape kit that was taken after she regained consciousness was mysteriously lost.
This crime eventually led to an amendment being added to the defense appropriations bill by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). This would require defense contractors to allow their employees access to US courts in cases of rape or sexual assault, regardless of where they are stationed. The 30 Republican senators voted against this amendment are currently being humiliated on the Republicans for Rape website and by John Stewart on the Daily Show.