Many US female soldiers are sexually assaulted by their male comrades and can't trust
the military to protect them. Not everyone realizes how different the Iraq war is for women than any other American war in history. More than 160,500 American female soldiers have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East since the war began in 2003, which means one in seven soldiers is a woman. Women now make up 15 percent of active duty forces, four times more than in the 1991 Gulf War. At least 450 women have been wounded in Iraq, and 71 have died,more female casualties and deaths than in the Korean, Vietnam and first Gulf Wars combined. And women are fighting in combat.
Rape, sexual assault and harassment are nothing new to the military. They were a serious problem for the Women Army Corps in Vietnam, and the rapes and sexual hounding of Navy women at Tailhook in 1991 and of Army women at Aberdeen in 1996 became international news. A 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all the wars since, who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military. And in a third study, conducted in 1992-93 with female veterans of the Gulf War and earlier wars, 90 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the military, which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at.
Women who serve in the American military are fighting more than just the enemy. They continue to face unconscionable rates of sexual harassment or assault.
One in seven female soldiers who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and later required health care reported being sexually assaulted or harassed, according to a Veterans Affairs study first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
This should send an alarm throughout the military and outrage through Congress and the White House. Clearly, not enough is being done to prevent, track and punish sexual abuse, or to create a climate that encourages reporting it.
The ugly statistics undercut the fact that America has more women in uniform today than at any time in its history, with at least 160,000 deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or the Middle East since 2003. Recruiting will not be helped if so many women find the military a debasing, even dangerous, experience on their own side of the lines.
In the VA data, only 0.7% of male soldiers reported similar experiences of sexual abuse or harassment.
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Watch a video interview of US female soldier on CNN about sexual harrasment.