US Servicewomen Suffer from Sexual Harassment in Iraq

Female soldiers and officers feel commanders betrayed them
The Pentagon is being shaken with a sexual scandal: US soldiers in the Persian Gulf area are accused of assaulting female soldiers. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered to immediately look into complaints from American female soldiers and officers participating in operations in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He said that the Defense Department would not put up with sexual harassments. Donald Rumsfeld added he was anxious about recent reports about similar incidents among troops deployed in Iraq and Kuwait.

A week earlier, The Denver Post published a special report under the headline "Betrayal in Ranks" about 37 American servicewomen who appealed to Miles Foundation for help. The women complained they suffered from sexual assaults from their brother-officers.

Daniela, one of the 37 servicewomen was assaulted at the Udairi base 7.5 kilometers from the Iraqi border on November 28, 2003. Daniela and her military unit underwent last training at that very base before departure to Iraq. The woman went off duty at 2:30 a.m. and went to a WC at the other end of the base. Suddenly she felt a strong blow at the head and lost consciousness. When Daniela regained consciousness she felt she was blindfolded, had a gag in the mouth and a noose around her neck. Her hands were tied fast. A man who assaulted Daniela cut her clothes with a knife; the woman felt a steel knife touch her body and bleeding wounds.
When the woman put up resistance she received another blow in the face and lost consciousness once and for all. When she came to herself once again there was nobody by her side. The woman had to run to the quarters absolutely stripped of her clothes. A soldier whom Daniela met on her way helped the woman loosen her hands and gave her a cloak. In several minutes, the woman met the commanders.

Next day, Daniela was sent to a hospital where doctors confirmed she had been raped. However, the woman was rendered no medical aid. In a day, she was moved to a neighboring base where Daniela stayed with some other servicewoman. When the latter got back to her military base, Daniela stayed alone.

All requests of the woman for an army chaplain or a psychologist were rejected. Instead, Daniela was told to undergo a lie detector test. The woman refused to. In several days, she attempted to commit a suicide. Hospital doctors saved the woman's life, but family attorneys had to interfere into the scandal. It was only thanks to their assistance that Daniela got back to the US. Even though the woman suffered from severe headaches, had eye and back problems she was told to take up her duties immediately after discharge from the hospital.

Daniela thinks that commanders want to treat her tragedy as an incident. "They treated me as if I wanted to deceive them. I felt the commanders abandoned me," the woman says. 
Other servicewomen who suffered from sexual harassments during military operations feel the same. Miles Foundation states that not only female soldiers but also officers fell victims to sexual harassment in the army. Majority of sexual assaults are registered in Kuwait where US troops are deployed before departure to Iraq. This is strange but army commanders provide no medical and psychological aid to these women. What is more, servicewomen have to take up their duties in those subdivisions where they suffered from sexual harassment. That is why many servicewomen do not complain about sexual assaults as they know such complaints will be ineffective.

"Betrayal in Ranks" caused a hail of indignation among congressmen. 37 congressmen signed a demand to immediately look into similar complaints from servicewomen and to consider the issue at the Congress.

The Pentagon has admitted that over 2003 it received lots of complaints from women about sexual harassment in the army and promised to punish violators.

However, those female soldiers and officers who fell victims to sexual harassment do not believe in a fair investigation. They think this is just a response to the pressure from the society. According to the information provided by the Congress, 30 per cent of questioned women who served in Vietnam admit they were raped by their fellow-officers. 7 per cent of American servicewomen fell victims to violence during the 1991 Gulf War. Nothing is reported about testimony of violators.

Natalia Babasyan 

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Author`s name Michael Simpson