Carrie Wooten

Good ol' boys raping G.I.Jane

Filed By Carrie Wooten | March 11, 2007 6:25 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: equal protection clause, feminism, Iraq, military, Rape, war, women's rights

It seems an even darker side of the Iraq War is just now being reported: male soldiers raping and sexually harassing their female comrades in droves. Rape in war is anything but new, with American male military fantasy leading historically to the colonization of foreign women's bodies. But now it seems that in ever increasing numbers it is the American woman soldier's body that is being attacked and sacrificed when access to foreign bodies is sparce. In a new report on female soldiers' conditions in Iraq, Helen Benedict has uncovered a startling reality for those women who sign up to serve our country.

'Spc. Mickiela Montoya, 21, who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, took to carrying a knife with her at all times. "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis," she told me. "It was for the guys on my own side."'

Montoya went on to say this: "This guy out there, he told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He said in Vietnam they had prostitutes to keep them from going crazy, but they don't have those in Iraq. So they have women soldiers instead."

Three female soldiers died in Iraq in 2003 of dehydration after refusing to drink any liquids late in the day. The risk of being raped or beaten at the latrines after dark was too great. Irene Weiser who has undertaken similar research reported this account of a female soldier:

"The US serviceman waited outside the latrine and hit the woman on the back of the head as she exited, knocking her unconscious. He tied her hands with cord, blindfolded her, cut her clothes off with a knife, stuffed her underwear in her mouth and proceeded to rape her. When she regained consciousness and began to resist, he threatened to rape her with the knife instead. He hit her in the head again, this time forcefully between the eyes, again causing her to lose consciousness. When she came to she was transported to another facility where she was interrogated for three hours. She received no medical treatment for her head injuries. For the first few days following the rape she was housed with another woman; she was subsequently left in isolation for an extended period. Her requests for religious counsel were denied."

I don't have much to say about these reports at the moment because they make me so angry, nauseas, and disillusioned, but I encourage you to follow the links and read these stories carefully. We must acknowledge this reality of our military system and the ways in which women soldiers are seen as the sexual playthings of our boys in uniform if we are to ever have any meaningful change for women and their safety. These stories reflect so strikingly how women continue to be treated as second class citizens, even when they fight for the rights of the very men who hurt them. I hope that these reports gain widespread attention, and that somehow we can revolutionize the system that continually turns a blind eye to their suffering and violation.


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Allen J. Lopp | March 11, 2007 9:04 PM

This is dreadful, but it does not surprise me after hearing about similar incidents that occur even stateside, in the military academies. (Only a few years ago the Air Force Academy in Colorado was in the news regarding similar problems.) Every bit as bad as the rape itself, is the systemic problem that the women do not receive proper treatment and support in the aftermath, and the attacker(s) usually go scott free.

My first response was, Maybe a few more openly gay male soldiers in the mix could help protect the females --- but I guess it is sexist to think that a woman needs any category of man to protect her. (Also, not all gay men are as pro-feminist as I am, and I'm not naive about that.) But it also occurs to me, Are the women so isolated from each other that they can't protect each other? Such as going to the latrine in groups of two or three, at least? I suppose that allowing even that would require a certain minimum level of awareness by the CO and the upper command structure.

Finally, this claim that "I'll go crazy if I don't get some nooky" is a bunch of crap. All they need is a Saturday night circle jerk.

Thanks for your comments Allen. =) In Benedict's article, she actually mentions that some female soldiers are warned to take another women to the latrine with them. But the fact that those warnings even have to be present is insanity and creates even more of a culture of fear in a community that is supposed to be built on absolute trust.

I can totally see where Carrie is coming from on this one. While going in groups to the bathroom is a workable solution temporarily, the problem isn't solved. The problem still remains that the women have to, literally, be told to go to the bathroom in groups to protect against rape - by their fellow soldiers!

The atrocities of war are numerous and catastrophic. As mentioned earlier, in Vietnam there were camp followers - and if that didn't suit their taste, the soldiers had no problem taking what they wanted from villagers. And, rape notwithstanding, there are plenty of other evil deeds committed by both sides in any war or conflict!

All of this helps to illustrate even more why the United States should not be stuck in Iraq policing the country after we've taken it over. We should withdraw our troops immediately - and bring them home for some training in diversity and tolerance without the bullets flying overhead and IEDs going off next to their feet.

It is interesting to me that we think it is ridiculous that women should be forced to walk in groups to the latrines in Iraq, but we think it quite obvious that women should go in pairs or groups when they walk late at night or go to frat parties in the States.

Well, I think it's obvious that women should walk together at night for one reason - safety. BUT - I also think that men should walk with someone at night for safety too. That's not a sexism issue - it's a safety and crime issue. If you're alone at night in a place where a criminal can harm you you're an easy target - no matter your gender.

Which brings up a whole host of other issues that feminism is a part of - but not the only source. Education, poverty, sexism, parenting, racism, all of these issues (and others) combine to form the cesspool that is behind crime in America. Unfortunately, it's never been solved in any civilization - the reasons are too myriad and vast.

But it's up to us to keep talking about those issues and trying to pierce the veil to see the underlying causes. Good job for bringing up that topic too, Carrie.

I would argue strongly that the messages girls and women receive about walking in pairs or groups at night is 1) primarily to protect them against rape and 2) fundamentally different than the messages that men receive about it not being wise to walk alone (if they even receive those messages at all). It is very, very much a gender issue, as well as a safety one, and it affects women in wholly different ways than men.

"Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected"

That speaks volumes.

Good post, Carrie. I agree - there is a different message about travelling in groups directed at women than at men. Last year I lived in a small city and a female friend would come by often. She lived about a mile away and we'd hang out pretty late - but at 8 PM she'd ask whether I'd walk her home that night or not because the last bus came by at 8:10. And I've always liked to take late night walkks when I can't sleep (I've almost lived the majority of my life in small cities, ex-urbia, or the country, and that may be different from the big city Bil lives in), and I've noticed how I only see men walking alone at that hour. Very rarely do I see women out alone late at night. I don't know if that's just stupidity on the men's part or if it's because men are safer at that hour (probably a mix of the two), but men do definitely feel safer out late at night.

I can't imagine what it would be like not to feel safe enough to be out at whatever hour I choose alone (I admit I've never lived in particularly high crime areas), but about half the population feels that way and that's a real difference in the amount of personal autonomy two segments of the population have based on the way that each is born. The Salon article indicates that the problem is exacerbated because of the war and the military's hierarchy, but really, night-time shouldn't be prison for anyone anywhere.