Raped In Service To Your Country
It’s said that there’s a little bit of Hitler in all of us. Jung’s shadow side. I don’t know about Hitler but Abu Ghraib is definitely inside me today. I’m the torturer. I’m beating and humiliating the male American soldiers who raped their military “sisters”. But my rage doesn’t stop there. It includes all the commandants who turned a blind eye. It includes the military decision-makers who gave the rapists honorable discharges. As one point of view goes: “These guys are in a pressure cooker over there. They’re really good men traumatized by the brutality they see and they’d never do it at home.” I don’t care. Do you hear me, I DON’T CARE. They did it. It was wrong. They don’t even have the so-called legitimate excuse that it’s the enemy: “he woulda killed me if I hadn’t killed him scenario.”
As reported by Nancy Gibbs for Time magazine this March 2010 Sexual Assaults on Women Soldiers: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “The Pentagon’s latest figures show that nearly 3,000 women were sexually assaulted in fiscal year 2008, up 9% from the year before; among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25%. When you look at the entire universe of female veterans, close to a third say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving — twice the rate in the civilian population. [And]the problem is even worse than that. The Pentagon estimates that 80% to 90% of sexual assaults go unreported.”
I’ve heard some people say that women brought this on themselves by pushing for equality in society and in the military. I want to scream. When, oh when, will the mantra of blaming the victim end? Thirty+ years ago I was a volunteer with the Rape Crisis Council. I was the public face going out and making speeches. I heard the same thing over and over: they (woman who was raped) shouldn’t have been wearing “that.” Well with fatigues that argument’s moot. So now we’re back to location, location, location. She shouldn’t have been on that street, on that date, in that bar or, in this case, in that country. That’s forgetting that, like the men, they chose to serve our country. Irrelevant if you were/are against the war, we ought to support the troops; the individual men and women who are putting their lives on the line and, sadly, in the case of women, putting their sexual freedom on the line as well.
The advice of the military chain-of-command perpetuates the woman’s responsibility in her own rape “Don’t go to the latrine alone.” A woman “finally” goes to the powder room alone and she pays by being raped and sodomized while another USA male soldier stands guard. This is not what was meant by the buddy system or that your comrades will protect your back. The attacks are apparently commonplace enough that many women will not drink anything after 7pm because then they might have to go to the bathroom during the night, opening them up for sexual brutality.
So this is what a minimum of 1 out of 3 female soldiers could come home with:
- PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from the war itself
- PTSD from being raped or assaulted
- Inability to trust their comrades again
- Inability to trust the military again
- No expectation that the system will be fair and equitable
- Unwillingness to serve their country again
- Inability to trust that their employer will support them
- Fear of going to the bathroom after 7pm
- Scared to speak up against injustice because of being ostracized from the group
- Unwillingness to let their daughters, and perhaps their sons, sign up for military service
There was some hope back in 2007 voiced by Helen Benedict, Salon.com, in The private war of women soldiers “I am not claiming that sexual persecution is universal in the military, or that it is inevitable. Several soldiers I interviewed told me that if a commander won’t tolerate the mistreatment of women, it will not happen, and studies back this up.” But we know the numbers of sexual assault victims have grown since that article. It’s difficult to know if reporting has improved (there is now a DOD website for reporting assaults) or if actual cases have increased. But that’s not the discussion that needs to be held. Instead there needs to be a rallying cry with action that says: We don’t mistreat women nor tolerate their mistreatment under any circumstances. As an officer or as an enlisted man/woman I will respect and protect my comrades-in-arms regardless of their gender.
PS-I do know that my thoughts of violence against the rapists are as illogical and wrong as the pro-life fanatics who have killed doctors who perform abortions. I won’t be acting on them.