BBC Article: Women at war face sexual violence

  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.

as with any profession that makes violence its business, the military attracts two types: idealists, and thugs. i’ll let you guess the proportion of the two, and which genders tend to fall into which category predominantly, and what happens when you mix idealists and thugs.

Not only that, but the living conditions, whether at sea or on the field, just amplify all of the things a social order’s supposed to keep a lid on. The brutal truth of what humanity is underneath all the decoration brought on by higher mental processes hasn’t changed, and in that environment, it’s dredged up to the surface…

These sort of articles always make me cringe, I can’t get past the author’s agenda - it always seems to be either: - "Men are pigs and therefore women shouldn’t serve - Or, men are pigs who will take advantage of any poor - woman and the military is just evil.

I had the chance to talk to a retired general about her career. She said that she was a professional soldier, treated everyone as a professional, and expected the same treatment from others. She never had a problem. Sure some uncivilized louts made rude comments, but that was all.

It seems that some soldiers may have to be reminded that they are professionals, and this sort of treatment is not allowed.

You make it sound like there’s an entire class of professions like this.

police officer, security guard, postal employee etc etc

she’s also deep inside the system and knows the rules – and first and foremost is that you don’t talk shit about the system.

edit: i have no problem with women serving, and never have. i just don’t think the military attracts decent people, by and large, save for the rare standout exception. see: the recruiter suicide thread.

Your generalization is bullshit or drawn from an extremely limited sample, particularly once you broke it down by gender. You’re looking for archetypes from movies, not actual military personnel. So please, don’t keep me guessing. Let’s see how far this goes.

she’s also deep inside the system and knows the rules – and first and foremost is that you don’t talk shit about the system.

What are you basing this on?

What part of retired don’t you get?

It’s not that, it’s that she’s an officer, and this is more rare for officers, because of the rank structure and because there are just so few female officers.

being around police officers and military personnel/officers for most of my childhood?

Yeah, it probably would be more rare for officers.

But I think the notion that soldiers are either thugs or idealists is crap. So is the notion that deep down, all humans are just predators or animals or whatever. There are certain types of people who become soldiers for all the wrong reasons. They will also tend to be the type who aren’t fully socialized, for whatever reason. The same is true in the police force. But the example of those people cannot be generalized to all other soldiers or cops.

well, i’d argue that by being an “accepted” female, she’s gonna bolster the system. i’ve heard enough first hand “hur hur” accounts from soldiers about how they view military women to be pretty sure that she’s an exception and she knows it, and that she’s gonna protect the organization that accepted her and her power. of course, i can’t imagine trusting ANY random military authority to NOT hide its internal issues from the public, regardless of the arbitrary gender of its officials.

exactly how does that change anything? my grandfather is countless years retired as an army major, and he’d never air dirty laundry in an interview.

I think there are a lot of feminist writers who are upset about rape and sexual violence, including the kind of historically institutionalised pro-rapist culture in many military & police groups. If this is an ‘agenda’ its an agenda thats worth being part of. Rape convinctions in Britain, for example, are terribly low compared to the estimated amount of raping going on:

Even the pentagon admits the US military has had a problem in this regard:

[quote=" The Pentagon"]

Pentagon officials say the jump in reports suggests the department’s policy of encouraging victims to come forward is bearing results.
But they estimate that no more than 20% of attacks are actually reported.
“Given the fear and stigma associated with the crime, sexual assault remains one of our nation’s most under-reported crimes in both the military and civilian community,” said Dr Kaye Whitley, the director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office.

Among the report’s findings:
[li]There were 2,923 reported sexual assaults in the 2008 fiscal year, up from 2,688 in 2007[/li][li]There 251 incidents in combat areas, including 141 in Iraq and 22 in Afghanistan[/li][li]Investigations took place in 2,763 cases. In 832 cases, action was taken, including 317 courts-martial, a rise of 38%[/li][li]Of the 6.8% of women and 1.8% of men who indicated they had experienced unwanted sexual contact, the majority - 79% of women and 78% of men - chose not to report it. [/ul][/li][/quote]

Another article on rape & military culture:

The book in question seems fairly thoroughly researched and I guess it should serve as an eye opener to any unaware women thinking of joining the military.

Are there numbers about the rape rate in the military compared to the rate for similar civilian demographics?

I don’t think a data set as sketchy as that could lead to any meaningful comparison.

Interesting to compare though, no?

A feminist blog talking about the same issue with some interesting comments where I sourced the CNN quote:

The issue is not so much that rape, and other violations, happen in the military. They happen everywhere. Nor that the military, like any other organisation, doesn’t air it’s dirty laundry in public.

The real issue is that victims aren’t granted justice and offenders aren’t punished (not to mention outright being promoted). It violates the very core essence of the military: Your fellow soldiers are your buddies. You rely on them and they rely on you. Raping someone is as much a violation of the military code as deserting your fellow soldiers, not obeying commands from your superior officer or indeed not fulfilling your responsability to those under your command.

A military system not dealing with a rape case is pissing on it’s flag as much as the military system not dealing with other blatant violations of military conduct.


krise madsen

Well, the prosecution rate is clearly embarassing, I’m more of wondering if rape is more common among comparable civilians than it is in the military. That would seem to reflect on the “idealists and thugs” angle; personally I’d guess they’re actually less likely due to the structure of military society, the military just does jack about it.