The Women’s War

There’s a very long cover story in the NY Times Magazine this week about women vets and the additional stress they experience from being raped or harassed by their brothers in arms:

Swift’s stress came not just from the war and not just from the supposed harassment, she told the investigators, but from some combination of the two. In a written statement to investigators, Swift asserted that her station, Camp Lima, outside Karbala, was hit by mortar attacks almost nightly for the first two months of her deployment. She reported working 16-hour shifts, experiencing the death of a fellow company member in an incident of friendly fire and having a close friend injured in a car bombing. What Swift said distressed her most, however, was a situation that involved her squad leader, the sergeant to whom she directly reported in Iraq. She claimed that he propositioned her for sex the first day the two of them arrived in Iraq and that she felt coerced into having a sexual relationship with him that lasted four months – the relationship consisting, she said, of his knocking on her door late at night and demanding intercourse. When she finally ended this arrangement, Swift told me, the sergeant retaliated by ordering her to do solitary forced marches from one side of the camp to another at night in full battle gear and by humiliating her in front of her fellow soldiers. (The sergeant could not be reached, but according to an internal Army report, he denied any sexual contact with Swift.)

As it often is with matters involving sex and power, the lines are a little blurry. Swift does not say she was raped, exactly, but rather manipulated into having sex – repeatedly – with a man who was above her in rank and therefore responsible for her health and safety. (Some victims’ advocates use the term ”command rape” to describe such situations.) Swift says that the other two sergeants – one in Kuwait and one back home in Fort Lewis, both a couple of ranks above her – made comments like ”You want to [expletive] me, don’t you?” or when Swift asked where she was to report for duty, responded, ”On my bed, naked.”

Check out the whole thing.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

15 comments for “The Women’s War

  1. Lesbia's Sparrow
    March 18, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    The more I read about the horrible way women are treated in the military, the more I become convinced that the popular antipathy to openly gay men in the military is this kind of man afraid he’s going to get the same appalling treatment directed at him.

  2. Elizabeth
    March 18, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Ugh.

    That is just awful. And not enough is done about it.

    Too bad it only covers the assault and rape of women. I suppose men being raped by men would be a little too taboo for the NY Times.

  3. mustelid
    March 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Maybe that’s the point of DADT. First, there’s the fear of same-sex rape. We all know that being raped is much worse for the menfolk. ‘Cause that woud put them at the level of a WOMAN. We can’t have that! And someone’s bound to ask, if you punish a soldier for raping a man, why can’t you punish him for raping a woman? Even worse, there may be minimal problems, and the revelation that there’s a good number of gays at all levels of the military. Who are NOT trying to harass/rape anyone. Which would put yet another hole in the “wartime stress/irresistable urges” bullshit that gets trotted out now.

  4. March 18, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    In a somewhat related story, CBS Sunday Morning reported today on the Asian women (i.e. from Korea and numerous other countries) who, decades ago, were forced into being unpaid prostitutes as so-called Comfort Women for Japanese soldiers. Ironically, some of the Japanese leaders felt such an arrangement would cut down on “the need for soldiers to rape women”. Many of these women are organizing and speaking out, all these years later. Ellen Goodman wrote about this yesterday.

    I mention it because it’s another example of the same mentality that excuses rape and coercion by soldiers. These women are now grandmothers; indisputably emotionally scarred, they nonetheless are still speaking out, still waiting for justice. Or some form of reparations. Something.

    It’s unlikely they’ll see it, I think, and it’s unlikely the magnitude of our own military’s rape culture will be fully revealed for some time. When it does, prepare to be horrified all over again.

  5. Ellie
    March 18, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Japan will probably never do anything about the “comfort women” situation. They’re just too obsessed with face, and if they can sweep some shame under the rug and pretend it never happened, they will. Especially if it happened to the “lesser” Asians. I will be very surprised if they ever do try to apologize for this.

    These stories about women in the military are just so sickening. It’s stories like these that are why I was just so frustrated with Chris Rock’s “white women have it SO EASY compared to black men!” rant last night on SNL. I want someone like him to read this kind of shit and then look me in the eye and tell me women aren’t oppressed and disrespected in our culture; that we have it so darn easy and can just sashay through life on a cloud of roses and glitter. Go on.

    I have a friend in the National Guard. She joined because her boyfriend was in there as well, and she’s been learning to be an airplane mechanic. Every time I hear about troops being moved out in droves, I worry that she’s going to get sent off somewhere–even if it’s Germany or Kuwait–because of the awful things that can happen to women in the military. It’s just not worth the college tuition to die or be sexually harassed and assaulted. And god knows (I haven’t asked) what she’s gone though already. I hope the answer to that is “nothing.”

  6. Mandolin
    March 18, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    “In a somewhat related story, CBS Sunday Morning reported today on the Asian women (i.e. from Korea and numerous other countries) who, decades ago, were forced into being unpaid prostitutes as so-called Comfort Women for Japanese soldiers. Ironically, some of the Japanese leaders felt such an arrangement would cut down on “the need for soldiers to rape women”. Many of these women are organizing and speaking out, all these years later. Ellen Goodman wrote about this yesterday.”

    For an investigation of these concepts and their impact on the current generation, may I recommend the novel _Comfort Woman_ by Nora Okja Keller.

  7. R
    March 19, 2007 at 1:24 am

    I read the article. Awful.

    The worst part is that administration-wise, the rapists get off free while the women are punished with demotions in rank for no apparent reason. So they’re being denied, on average, the positions of power within the military that would allow them to do something about the problem (I doubt that a female commander would be as lenient about rapes committed by her subordinates).

    I have also read about women dying of dehydration because they wouldn’t drink so that they wouldn’t have to go outside at night, where the men would immediately jump on them.

    I’m surprised that no one has thought to provide people in the military with some sort of rape kit to collect forensic evidence, and Plan B. Of course, that would involve acknowledging some nasty problems, but after all, in WWII they (reluctantly) started issuing condoms. It would keep so many of the cases from being thrown out for lack of evidence, and might even act as a deterrent.

  8. Lya Kahlo
    March 19, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    “Swift does not say she was raped, exactly, but rather manipulated into having sex – repeatedly – with a man who was above her in rank and therefore responsible for her health and safety”

    Which is rape.

  9. March 19, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    “Swift does not say she was raped, exactly, but rather manipulated into having sex – repeatedly – with a man who was above her in rank and therefore responsible for her health and safety”

    Which is rape.

    Yes, exactly.
    I was reading that sentence, and wondered how anyone could think that that wasn’t rape. She might not have been physicially threatened or forced, but that doesn’t make it any less rape.

  10. March 19, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    What I love is when the author says the man in question denies committing rape. Well, what else would he do? Why does that even have to be noted?

  11. Janis
    March 19, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Why do we even wonder why, when herded into large groups and told to go be violent, men rape? Our entire society conflates rape and sex; every man alive is taught to coerce sex outof women from the cradle. If she’s drunk, it counts. If she’s scared it counts. There’s a million little legalistic loopholes they look for that clears them to get some poon any way they can. “Seduction” as they practice it means “act as much like a rapist as possible without crossing some ill-defined line that no one wants to believe in anyway.”

    And after we get a bunch of young males in their early 20s together and hand them guns and tell them to go kill things, we’re surprised when they immediately go to rape. And that they require the constant pressure of a decent CO to prevent it. And that without that pressue, their drive to rape will be as inevitable as the sunrise.

    I am sick of pretending this isn’t the case for the sake of political correctness and not making feminism appear “threatening” OH NOES! but their brains are broken. And yes I’m including all of your Nice Guyz out there who woulnd’t DREAM of doing ANYTHING like this and who at least maybe might join in but feel real bad about it, or who know a guy who did it, but he’s realy a great guy and anyway I heard she was a lying slut anyway, or any of the other zillion fucking excuses you jackasses give as to why you don’t personally need to give a fuck about this because you’re all prince fucking charming.

    I heard about a preacher someplace who says in one of his talks that 30,000 kids die every night from starvation, and it’s bullshit. And that the real obscenity is that his audience gets more uncomfortable over the fact that eh said shit than at the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.

    This is the same thing. If you get angrier over my words than you do at the fact that these women were preyed on like raw meat by their own “brothers in arms,” your brain IS broken, so STFU about what a fabulous fucking prince you are, okay?

  12. March 20, 2007 at 8:35 am

    They put me in the hospital recently, in a program full of shoplifters and wife beaters. The male shrink did nothing. My female primary doctor described the sexists and wife beaters as jerks and I turned around and went to my senator.

Comments are closed.