Female GIs reporting rapes by U.S.
Women say response lacking within military, some even threatened
Posted on Sat, Jan. 24, 2004
Female troops serving in Iraq are reporting an insidious enemy in their own camps: fellow American soldiers who sexually assault them.
At least 37 female service members have sought sexual-trauma counseling and other assistance from civilian rape-crisis organizations after returning from war duty in Iraq, Kuwait and other overseas stations, women's assistance and advocacy organizations say.
"We have significant concerns about the military's response to sexual assault in the combat zone," said Christine Hansen, executive director of the Connecticut-based Miles Foundation, which says it has assisted 31 women.
The women, ranging from enlisted soldiers to officers, have reported poor medical treatment, lack of counseling and incomplete criminal investigations by military officials. Some say they were threatened with punishment after reporting assaults.
The Pentagon did not respond to repeated requests for information about the number of sexual assault reports during the conflict. Defense officials would say only that they will not tolerate sexual assault in their ranks.
"Commanders at every level have a duty to take appropriate steps to prevent it, protect victims, and hold those who commit them accountable," a written statement from the Pentagon said.
Members of Congress said they are alarmed by the assault reports, confirming that they have learned of incidents as well. Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard said he intends to raise the issue with the Senate Armed Services Committee. Two Pennsylvania members of Congress, Rep. Joseph Pitts and Sen. Arlen Specter, intervened last month on one rape victim's behalf to bring her home.
Senate leaders pledged last year to investigate the military's handling of rape and domestic-violence cases after media reports of problems including flawed investigations, inadequate victim services and unusual leniency for soldier sex offenders. Congressional hearings were recommended, but none has been scheduled.