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.