poetics, time, body disruption and marginally queer solutions

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

One Hundred Twelve Women Assaulted in Iraq, Afghanistan
by Irene Weiser

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.

Sound like the latest exposé from Abu Ghraib? Guess again. It’s just one of the more than 100 incidents of rape, sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct reported in the past 18 months by U.S. women soldiers currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been sexually assaulted by fellow U.S. soldiers.

The military’s response to these victims has been grossly inadequate. Many victims did not receive even the most basic medical care– emergency contraception, rape evidence kits, testing for sexually transmitted infections, prophylactic treatment or testing for HIV, and rape crisis counseling are not consistently available. Military personnel lack even common-sense sensitivity as to how to respond to rape trauma; one mental health counselor cleared an Army sergeant who had just been raped to go out on missions again, feeling it would be good for her to “keep busy”. Prosecution of these crimes is delayed indefinitely, and servicewomen must often continue to serve in the same unit with their assailant.

In February, after Pentagon officials admitted receiving 112 reports of sexual assault of troops deployed in the Middle East over the previous 18 months, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed a task force, headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Ellen Embrey to investigate the problem and make recommendations. Those findings were released May 13th in a 114 page document titled “Task Force Report on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault”.


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