Throughout time there have been many soldiers who have turned into authors who have given us the experience of war through writing. Many of them are civilians in the midst of war, and amongst them are many women who have shared their contact with war, but what about female soldier/authors? Where are those women who go to war and suffer for their country as much as the men that fight by their side? Helen Benedict –author of “The Lonely Soldier”– addressed this issue at an event that the Peace & Justice Center hosted as part of its Cost of War Speaker and Film Series.
When Helen Benedict approached a couple of women one day and confirmed that they were veterans from the Iraqi War, she asked them what it was like and they answered: “I was in Iraq for eleven months… I was shot at every day, but when I talk to people about it, nobody listens. You know why? Because I’m a female.” Ms. Benedict proceeded to ask if she could tell her more, and the female soldier said that women in the military are one of three things:
- Bitch (if you won’t sleep with the men)
- Whore (if you have a boyfriend)
- Dike (if you aren’t “good enough” for the men)
When Helen spoke to more women after talking to the two veterans, she recalled how they would occasionally have panic attacks, deflect the questions, etc. Ms. Benedict made a very interesting point when she mentioned that surveys from the army and the marines from the first two years of the Iraq and the Afghanistan war show that 50% of the men who had enlisted were physically abused as children and 50% of the women were sexually and/or physically abused as children too. This clearly shows how nowadays many people are enlisting due to “violent, dysfunctional homes; in order to escape and to feel strong”. She continued by reading testimonies from female soldiers who claimed the following:
- They were not trusted by the male soldiers to carry out duties.
- They were considered a substitute for the prostitutes that were present in the Afghanistan War but not in the Iraqi War (Fact: There is a 30% rate of rape in the military; the average age of the victim is 21 years old and the average age of the assailant is 28 years old which shows a clear distinction in rank).
- They were harassed in ways in which they were too embarrassed to even explain (Fact: There is a 90% rate of harassment in the military).
If there is an alleged case of sexual assault, the ones that will aim to resolve the problems are the biased commanders of the battalions. The military is not protecting the men and women that are being sexually assaulted for a variety of reasons and amongst them is the one of shamefulness that commanders could go through for “not being good leaders”. Public awareness and pressure on the government regarding the prevailing dangers of military sexual assault must be promoted in order for this to stop.
by Julian Geoffrey Lopez