In her new book, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, Helen Benedict examines the experience of female soldiers serving in the US military in Iraq and elsewhere.
Here, in an article adapted from her book, she outlines the threat of sexual violence that women face from their fellow soldiers while on the frontline, and provides testimony from three of the women she interviewed for her book.
There are some pretty interesting quotes in this article.
One of the guys I thought was my friend tried to rape me. Two of my sergeants wouldn’t stop making passes at me.
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.
During my first few months in Iraq, my sergeant assaulted and harassed me so much I couldn't take it any more. So I decided to report him. But when I turned him in, they said, 'The one common factor in all these problems is you. Don't see this as a punishment, but we're going to have you transferred.'
Then that same sergeant was promoted right away. I didn't get my promotion for six months.
A lot of the men didn’t want us there. One guy told me the military sends women soldiers 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.
At the end of my shift one night, I was walking back to my trailer with this guy who was supposed to be my battle buddy when he said: 'You know, if I was to rape you right now nobody could hear you scream, nobody would see you. What would you do?'
'I'd stab you.' 'You don't have a knife,' he said to me. 'Oh yes I do.'
Actually I didn't have one, but after that, I always carried one. I practiced how to take it out of my pocket and swing it out fast. But I wasn't carrying the knife for the enemy, I was carrying it for the guys on my own side.
[I]Air Force Sergeant Marti Ribeiro was assaulted by a fellow serviceman while she was on duty in Afghanistan in 2006.[/I] "It's taken me more than a year to realise that it wasn't my fault, so I didn't tell anyone about it.
The military has a way of making females believe they brought this upon themselves. That’s wrong.
There's an unwritten code of silence when it comes to sexual assault in the military.
But if this happened to me and nobody knew about it, I know it's happening to other females as well."
I’m sure this has been discussed quite a bit here before, but I’d be curious to hear the reactions of anyone who’s read/reads the book.