Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Army and Sexual Harassment

From the Miles Foundation:
Recent estimates suggest that sexual assault in the military is experienced by three percent of female servicemembers, according to a recent survey released by the Department of Defense.-Armed Forces 2002 Sexual Harassment Survey, 2004. An earlier study conducted by the Defense Manpower Center indicated that 6 percent of female respondents and 1 percent of male respondents were victims of actual or attempted rape.-Department of Defense Sexual Harassment Survey, 1995.

~The prevalence of adult sexual assault among female veterans has been estimated as high as 41%.-Prevalence of physical and sexual abuse in women veterans, Military Medicine, 1996; Factors associated with women's risk of rape in the military, Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2003; and Prevalence of military sexual assault, Interpersonal Violence, 2000.

Thirty-seven percent of women who reported a rape or attempted rape had been raped more than once; fourteen percent of the victims reported having been gang raped.-Factors associated with women's risk of rape in the military, Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2003.

We live in a culture that tends to blame rape victims for their own rapes. We judge them as sluts and loose whores who got what they deserved because no respectable woman would have "put herself" in that situation to be raped. I discussed this in an earlier post about the prevaling attitudes from people from the clergy to ordinary people like us, but it's about time we talk about the army and sexual assualt.

Specialist Suzanne Swift was prepositioned for sex by three sergeants during her first tour of duty in Iraq. Subsequently she was sexually assualted and later refused to redeploy to Iraq for a second tour, instead staying in Oregon. She was arrested and could be COURT-MARTIALED, all because she wanted to escape her sexual tormentors. She is now being held in Fort Lewis, Idaho, not allowed out of the base to go see her mother. Spc. Swift should be LAUDED for her willingness to stand up to the armed forces' culture of sexism (now I'm not saying all our soldiers are but I am discussing the Pentagon's willingness to look the other way when it comes to sexual assualt and rape.) Anyone who believes that women soldiers should be treated with the respect any soldier deserves for fighting for his or her country knows that her going AWOL was justified because how can one live with the threat of impending rape hanging over her head? How can a soldier to borrow Jerry Falwell's infamous phrase, face two different enemies, one from the front and one from the rear?"

If ANYONE should be court-martialed, it should be those who sexually assualted Army Specialist Swift. By not holding those who commit such despicable acts responsible or by dragging its feet when it comes to such issues, the Army sends a message to the women in the armed forces that they are no better than sexual toys to be used at the whim of any soldier who wishes to. This is a despicable message and implies that she is responsible for her sexual assualt and that her going AWOL is a worse crime. It sends the message that to the Army, our soldiers are nothing more than cannon fodder while doing nothing about the sexual abuse our women in the military undergo. It sends the message that a female soldier is valued less than a male soldier, perhaps that one woman equals 3/5 of a man (here we go again!). Hopefully the Army is acting upon it but it speaks volumes such that it takes an outcry to get the Army acting. One cannot blame her for going without leave after all the abuse she underwent, but it seems that the Army does not care only as long as she sucks it up and goes back to Iraq. I suggest that the Army take a look at Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder and take it more seriously.

Please go to the petition site to show solidarity with this courageous soldier...

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