Women Face a Two Front War

April 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Women in the military are put in a peculiar situation simply because of their gender. Not only do they fight alongside men, having to ward off attack from the enemy, but they have to prevent assault from their comrades. The very people they are supposed to trust to have their back are also the ones women need to be careful of.  Rape and sexual assault happen frequently in the military. From The Private War of Women by Helen Benedict, 71 percent of female soldiers admit to having been sexually assaulted or raped. On top of dealing with the stress of being a soldier, women have to be alert always to prevent attack. Female soldiers tell of strategies they used to protect themselves, one way killed three in Iraq in 2003. These women would not drink liquids late in the day so they wouldn’t need to go to the latrines at night where many rapes occurred. They are risking their lives just the same as their fellow male soldiers, yet they have danger on an additional front. Where they should be safe and be able to rely on those around them, everyone is a potential enemy. However, we need to also acknowledge that not every male soldier is a culprit. While it was only a small part of the essay, it was mentioned that there were commanders that would not tolerate any harassment. The problem is how widespread and well known these rapes and assaults are that soldiers are well aware where they happen and such.

Female soldiers coming back from war have to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as the repercussions of being raped and/or harassed during their time in the military. Many times this assault occurs from those in command. This command rape is particularly problematic in the sense that these women have nowhere to turn because normally the ones they would report to is now the perpetrator.  However, there are ways for women to seek recourse for the assault. It is not infallible but it is something. A main flaw is that when women report rape or assault they are not always kept anonymous and they are then ostracized by other soldiers.  These attacks are well known and many soldiers report seeing or knowing about rapes and assaults. Women are told to always take a buddy to the latrines or showers as to prevent assault. This is relatable to rape and assault for civilian women as well; women are always told ways on how not to get raped, but rarely are men told not to rape. We need to reevaluate the policies we have in place for female soldiers who have a two front war. They face attack from all sides and have few options for recourse. As a country that sees itself as a world power, this is unacceptable. Female soldiers are just as valuable as male soldiers and our policies should reflect as much.

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