Sunday, August 31, 2008

So much to say, so little time.


Why Soldiers Rape, by Helen Benedict, In These Times via Feministing.

[ . . . ] Rape in civilian life is already unacceptably common. One in six women is raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice, a number so high it should be considered an epidemic.

In the military, however, the situation is even worse. Rape is almost twice as frequent as it is among civilians, especially in wartime. Soldiers are taught to regard one another as family, so military rape resembles incest. And most of the soldiers who rape are older and of higher rank than their victims, so are taking advantage of their authority to attack the very people they are supposed to protect.

Department of Defense reports show that nearly 90 percent of rape victims in the Army are junior-ranking women, whose average age is 21, while most of the assailants are non-commissioned officers or junior men, whose average age is 28. [ . . . ]

[ . . . ] [Duke University Law Professor Madeline Morris and University of California professor and folklorist Carol Burke] both show that military language reveals this "unabashed hatred of women" all the time. Even with a force that is now 14 percent female, and with rules that prohibit drill instructors from using racial epithets and curses, those same instructors still routinely denigrate recruits by calling them "pussy," "girl," "bitch," "lady" and "dyke." The everyday speech of soldiers is still riddled with sexist insults. [ . . . ]


There's more!

[ . . . ] The message in all these insults is that women have no business trying to be soldiers. In 2007, Sgt. Sarah Scully of the Army’s 8th Military Police Brigade wrote to me in an e-mail from Kuwait, where she was serving: "In the Army, any sign that you are a woman means you are automatically ridiculed and treated as inferior."

Army Spc. Mickiela Montoya, who was in Iraq for 11 months from 2005-2006, put it another way: "There are only three things the guys let you be if you’re a girl in the military: a bitch, a ho or a dyke. [I know which one I am! Hint: we get things done.] One guy told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He told me in Vietnam they had prostitutes, but they don’t have those in Iraq, so they have women soldiers instead." [ . . . ]


Now for some statistics, which you may have seen before:

• A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all wars since, conducted by psychotherapist Maureen Murdoch and published in the journal Military Medicine, found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.

• In 2003, a survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War by psychologist Anne Sadler and her colleagues, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.

• And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, also conducted by Murdoch and published in Archives of Family Medicine, reported that 90 percent had been sexually harassed, which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at.

• A 2007 survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that homelessness among female veterans is rapidly increasing as women soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty percent of these homeless female veterans say they were sexually abused while in the service.


In addition to perpetuating the culture of rape, how can our government send soldiers to war, and then--if and when these soldiers make their way back home--allow them to be homeless?

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