G.I. Jane's Other War

One out of every three american women soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan has been the victim of sexual abuse on the part of male u.s. soldiers. “and 71 to 90% say they were the object of harassment by their male comrades-in-arms, subjected to constant denigration, insults and vulgar slurs.”So writes Helen Benedict, Columbia University professor, in her book, The Lonely Soldier, the private war of women serving in Iraq, which has already unleashed fierce debate in the United States. In war zones, the ratio of woman soldiers is one to every ten men. “feeling as though you are a target 24 hours a day is not easy,” Helen Benedict explains. “the message the men are sending is ‘we don’t respect you. we don’t want you here.’ then comes the physical assault, and finally rape.”According to army statistics, “only” o.83 out of every thousand women in war zones have been the victims of sexual abuse. However, the army also makes it clear that those are just the reported cases, and that 90% of rapes are kept quiet.Usually, the aggressors are the women’s superiors, and most often they are never brought to trial. In addition to all of this, it is also more difficult for women to gain access to health care, as only 14% of military clinics have departments dedicated to women’s health issues. "With the assistance of American associations that provide help and psychological support to female veterans suffering from MST (military sexual trauma), I carried out extensive research for this project. I was able to establish contact with many of these women, veterans of the latest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also of earlier wars, all of them with stories to tell of rape and sexual abuse. I met with these women, interviewed them, and photographed them - their stories had to be told."


U.S.A. / Connecticut / New Haven / May 2010 

Candice Harrington, 36 years old. Deployed in Kuwait for 8 months and in a classifield base in Afghanistan for 6 months. She has been raped several times and reported the crime to her superior. Was sent home with a honorable discharge in the attempt to cover up the abuse. She's still waiting for the verdict. She wants to go back in the military otherwise, she says, "They won".



U.S.A. / New York / Brooklyn / May 2010 

Jaqueline Cutting, 39 years old. Deployed in Iraq for several months. Still cannot find the strength to talk about her incidents in the military. Receives us in the staircase of her home in Brooklyn, where she remains sitting in silence.



U.S.A. / Texas / Austin / May 2010 

Lisa Morgan Wallace, 29 years old, deployed in the navy, on  guided missile cruiser in charge of anti submarine warfare, in the persian gulf close to the coast of Iraq. Between 2004 and 2005, for a period of eight months, Lisa is stationed in a ship with 700 men and two other women soldiers. During that period, Lisa was sexually assaulted many times, though her first assault already happened in 2001 at the naval accademy. All the three girls deployed on the ship developed serious panic disorders ad severe stress for the trauma. One of the girls became suicidal. After a long period of incidents and rapes, all of them broke down and were put into interrogation, after which they were discharged. It took many, many years for these girls to regain a normal life.



U.S.A. / Texas / Austin / May 2010 

Regina Vasquez – Born 3/12/1978 - Marine corps. While training for Marine combat, one weekend the Platoon Sergeant gave some ecstasy to two marines. The marines put the ecstasy in the women glasses. In their altered state, Regina and two other women soldiers were raped, and the sexual acts were recorded on a video tape. On the same day the three women were blackmailed and were told that if they reported the facts, the videos would have been shown publicly. 

Some time later, Regina, whilst still in the military, got pregnant. Despite her needs as a pregnant woman, she received no pre-natal care whatsoever, as well as being constantly harassed sexually by other militaries who knew about her pregnancy state. In an advanced pregnancy state, when she was medically ordered in bed, no one brought her food, and each time she walked out of bed to get food on her own, she was written down by the other militaries on duty. No one cared that she was pregnant. Exposed to high levels of stress, as well as chemicals she was in contact with while carrying out her duty, her pregnancy was severely affected and her son was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which needs important treatments. When she was discharged from the military, the chance for a claim ceased to be valid as a result of the statute of limitations. As a result, the government, who would have been held responsible of these events if the mother had any other job other than being in the military, is not offering any support for her son's treatments.


"If they didn't respect us at the base, how could they have ever respected us and protected us in the battle field?"



U.S.A. / New York / Manhattan / May 2010.

Sandra Liu, 33 Years old. Joined the Army in Feb 2002 out of Portland, Oregon Civil Affairs Staff Sergeant Deployed to Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq in 2004 Traumas: PTSD from Combat Trauma and Military Sexual Trauma, TBI. "I hardly go out - when I hear loud noises I recall all the explosions. I decided though to live in the City, as it is the only place that makes me feel alive. I couldn't make it anywhere else." 



U.S.A. / Texas / Austin / May 2010 

Jeanne Marie Carodeau, 54 years old. In her family both parents had problems of abuse and alcoholism. She left the family at the age of 15, and decided to pursue the military career at the age of 18. In 1974 she is accepted and spends 9 months at the San Antonio Air force base boot camp. Straight from the recruitment, sexual harassment becomes a constant practice. Suffering from too many major "incidents", as she calls them, Jeanne Marie is incarcerated in the psychiatric ward. The same is done with other women who have been abused: they are treated as if they have mental problems, in the attempt of covering things up. In the psychiatric ward things get worse for Jeanne Marie, as the doctors as well turn to be sexual predators and she witnesses that other women are abused and neglected. These traumatic experiences in the military have indelibly affected Jeanne Marie's life, who has not been able to get a job, have normal social relationships and carry on a normal life in general. It took her twenty years to be diagnosed with PSTD, and have her claims payed and her rights restored.



U.S.A. / Texas / Austin / May 2010 

Betty Stuart, 56 years old. Deployed in Hawaii and Korea. Sexual harassment is an ordinary practice from the boot camp. Blackmailed in several ways by her drill sergeant in his attempt to convince her to have sex with him. Betty gets married to a soldier in a short period in which she is stationed in San Antonio. Later, Betty and her husband are both deployed to Korea. After some time things change, her husband becomes violent and abuses her.  Betty decides to report the facts and her military career comes to an instant end. She steps down in orders and asks her commander in chief to be relocated, as a normal practice. In respect of the line of command, being her husband in a higher rank than her first sergeant, her request is denied. 



U.S.A. / Texas / Austin / May 2010 

Lee Le Teff suffers from short term memory disorder. "When you have to depend on your rapist for your personal safety, your brain cuts off those pieces of the memory that make you suffer and put you in doubt, to protect yourself, to safeguard and guarantee your survival. It took me many years to remember what happened".  While the soldiers were having a day off on Easter Sunday, stationed on a Rest and Recreation ship, Lee was raped by a comrade. By one of her own.



U.S.A. / Texas / Austin / May 2010 

Betty Kilbright, 38 years old. She joined the military in 1989. Specialized in military transport, che drives jeep, trailer trucks, tunks and heavy equipment transporters. She was deployed in a base on Saudi Arabia - Iran border, where she  was raped. Betty Kilbright says: "Sexual harassment is a constant practice. If they didn't respect us at the base, how could they have ever respected us and protected us in the battle field?


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