Women Soldiers Fight Another Enemy — Sexual Harrassment By Fellow GI's

050616-A-5930C-013 Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, vehi...
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It’s not a new story, although not an easy one to report with names and photos of women wiling to speak out publicly on the record. Female soldiers say they face significant sexual harrassment, let alone rape, according to today’s New York Times front-page story.

Here’s a two-year-old story from website DissidentVoice. And here’s an AP piece:

Of the women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have walked into a VA facility, 15 percent have screened positive for military sexual trauma, The Associated Press has learned. That means they indicated that while on active duty they were sexually assaulted, raped, or were sexually harassed, receiving repeated unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature.

In January, the VA opened its 16th inpatient ward specializing in treating victims of military sexual trauma, this one in New Jersey. In response to complaints that it is too male-focused in its care, the VA is making changes such as adding keyless entry locks on hospital room doors so women patients feel safer.

Depression, anxiety, problem drinking, sexually transmitted diseases and domestic abuse are all problems that have been linked to sexual abuse, according to the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides support to victims of violence associated with the military. Since 2002, the foundation says it has received more than 1,000 reports of assault and rape in the U.S. Central Command areas of operation, which include Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Miles Foundation, based in Newtown, CT, focuses on helping women facing these issues.

How ugly and abusive that women brave and patriotic enough to fight in war face enemies within their own ranks.

5 thoughts on “Women Soldiers Fight Another Enemy — Sexual Harrassment By Fellow GI's

  1. inmyhumbleopinion

    It’s mind-boggling to me how there are so many American women out there who believe we live in a “post-feminist” world, and then you read a story like the one you just described. Or a story like this: http://www.copyblogger.com/james-chartrand-underpants/ Just because it’s become unfashionable to march in the streets for our rights doesn’t mean there aren’t more rights to be had.

    I’m impressed by those military women who chose to speak out at the risk of their own careers–but to do otherwise is a tacit acceptance of terrible and demeaning behavior.

    Just curious: how do other military organizations with women soldiers deal with this issue? I’m thinking the Israelis could potentially be a good source of information, given that women have been in their army far longer than our women have.

  2. Caitlin Kelly

    imho, I totally agree. In fact, it’s the naive expectation that “we’re all equal” that can get some women into trouble. They actually expect — respect. Imagine!

    I wanted to report this story when I was the Daily News back in 2005, but had a hard time getting women to speak to me. So, it’s not new, and it’s deeply upsetting to me as a feminist.

    You question is a great one. I don’t know, offhand. It may be very different because, I believe, military service in Israel is compulsory for everyone, not just women, or men, for whom it’s sometimes the only/best job they could find to escape small-town life.

    1. inmyhumbleopinion

      Good point. I suspect, too, that culture has a lot to do with it. Most Israeli women I no are no shrinking violets, and a lot of that has to do with their kibbutznik attitudes of men and women working together shoulder to shoulder, which, I would think, would command a fair amount of respect from their fellow men. It gets me thinking that we should encourage co-ed sports in this country, or at least make self-defense training for girls a mandatory PE class in all high schools.

  3. Caitlin Kelly

    imho, I agree. What so many people fail to remember is that so much of our behavior and attitudes are culturally reinforced and rewarded, if not determined. I play softball with a co-ed group of men and women ages 20 to 70. Only the newbie men, very briefly, try to be patronizing, rude or cute with the women. We don’t stand for it, and the men we have played with for eight years don’t either.

    I think girls, even with Title IX and all the athletic opp’s it’s brought, are still fighting hard, everywhere, for respect.

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