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Rape in the US military: America's dirty little secret

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A female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.

Video: Kate Weber says she tried to report a rape but was told to be quiet and not tell anyone

“It was eight years before I was able to say the word that describes what happened to me,” says Maricella Guzman. “I hadn’t even been in the Navy a month. I was so young. I tried to report it. But instead of being taken seriously, I was forced to do push-ups.”

“I can’t sleep without drugs,” says Kate Weber. “But even then, I often wake up in the middle of the night, crying, my mind racing. And I lie there awake in the dark, reliving the rape, looking for a second chance for it to end with a different outcome, but he always wins.”

Rape within the US military has become so widespread that it is estimated that a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. So great is the issue that a group of veterans are suing the Pentagon to force reform. The lawsuit, which includes three men and 25 women (the suit initially involved 17 plaintiffs but grew to 28) who claim to have been subjected to sexual assaults while serving in the armed forces, blames former defence secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates for a culture of punishment against the women and men who report sex crimes and a failure to prosecute the offenders.

Since the lawsuit became public in February, 400 more have come forward, contacting attorney Susan Burke who is leading the case. These are likely to be future lawsuits. Right now they are anxiously awaiting a court ruling to find out if the lawsuit will go to trial. The defence team for the department of defence has filed a motion to dismiss the case, citing a court ruling, dating back to 1950, which states that the government is not liable for injury sustained by active duty personnel. To date, military personnel have been unable to sue their employer.

Whether or not the case goes to trial, it is still set to blow the lid on what has come to be regarded as the American military’s dirty little secret. Last year 3,158 sexual crimes were reported within the US military. Of those cases, only 529 reached a court room, and only 104 convictions were made, according to a 2010 report from SAPRO (sexual assault prevention and response office, a division of the department of defence). But these figures are only a fraction of the reality. Sexual assaults are notoriously under-reported. The same report estimated that there were a further 19,000 unreported cases of sexual assault last year. The department of veterans affairs, meanwhile, released an independent study estimating that one in three women had experience of military sexual trauma while on active service. That is double the rate for civilians, which is one in six, according to the US department of justice.

“For years, I thought I was the only person this had happened to, but it’s an epidemic,” says Weber, 36, who recounts being raped 16 years ago in Germany, and describes herself as a “high-functioning” sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result.

She is now married and lives in San Francisco with her four children, but even after years of therapy, still cannot sleep at night. “Rape is so widespread in the American military, it’s sick.

Worse still, the victim is likely to be blackballed by her own unit, and sometimes even demoted, according to Weber. “I first tried reporting the rape to my staff sergeant, he told me to be quiet and not tell anyone. So then I tried to tell a woman sergeant, who was beneath him, because I thought she’d be more sympathetic. She just cursed me for jumping the chain of command and not coming to her first. I went to the doctor, who did at least make a record of it, but he did nothing. I also told my ‘battle buddy’, a fellow female soldier. She said, ‘I know that guy. He’s married and he would never do such a thing. You’re a liar and a slut.’ Before long, I was being called a whore and a bitch by everyone. The guys were warning each other: ‘This one will accuse you of rape, so stay away from her.’ I was 18 years old, it was the first time I had ever been away from home. I had no idea what to do.

Stories such as Weber’s are commonplace. On mydutytospeak.com, where victims of military rape can share their experiences, there are breathtaking tales of brutality and mistreatment...

Video: After her attacker threatened to accuse her of being gay, Michelle Jones says she did not want to report her rape for fear of losing her job.

It is so well known that sex offenders go unpunished and victims penalised for reporting incidents, that most say nothing. Michelle Jones describes how she was still lying on the floor of her room in the barracks, her ripped shorts by her ankles, when her rapist stood over her and said, “I’ll tell everyone you’re a dyke and you’ll get booted out if you report this.”

She was two-thirds of her way through her service. “I didn’t want to lose my job,” says Jones, 39, who is now an IT consultant living in San Jose, California, and gay. Under the (now-repealed) US Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, openly gay people were barred from the military. Jones wasn’t even sure she was gay at the time. But it wasn’t worth the risk of reporting. “If I had spoken out, I would have been the one investigated,” she says. “And it wouldn’t have done any good anyway. I could tell you about 15 other women I know who had tried to report a rape and got nowhere.”

Rape in any circumstance is brutal, but in the military the worst effects are compounded. Victims are ignored, their wounds left untended, and the psychological damage festers silently, poisoning lives. Survivors are expected to carry on, facing their attacker on a daily basis. “Unlike in the civilian world, a military rape survivor cannot quit his or her job and move on,” explains Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, an organisation spearheading a campaign to reform this aspect of military life. “It’s like rape in the family. Many victims often receive additional threats from their attackers.” …

But military rape is not only a women’s issue. According to the Veterans Affairs Office, 37% of the sexual trauma cases reported last year were men. “Men are even more isolated than women following rape,” Bhagwati says. “Because it has an even bigger social stigma.”

Video:I just screamed for them to stop’ - Rick Tringale says he was gang raped in his dormitory during the first few weeks of training

Rick Tringale is one of few men to speak about what happened to him. He was 18 years old and in his first few weeks of training, he says, when he woke up in his bunk in the middle of the night thinking that it was raining. Someone was urinating on him.

“As I came to consciousness, I realised that I was being held down with a blanket and then I was beaten.” Tringale, 43, says his life changed for ever following a brutal gang rape, that led to him going AWOL from the army, and subsequently becoming homeless…

Read Whole: The Guardian

we cant let the homos in else theyre gon rape errbody