The New York Times Magazine has a hard-core story about women serving in the Army and doing time in Iraq who have PTSD and have gone AWOL — but the real story throughout Sara Corbett’s The Women’s War is how each woman has been coerced into having sex with their superior officers, or else (allegedly, ya). It’s called “command rape”, and it seems to be pervasive. No wonder these women don’t want to go back into service — sexual service, it seems. I wonder what, if any, fallout will come from this important (and quite long) article. Snip:
She reported working 16-hour shifts, experiencing the death of a fellow company member in an incident of friendly fire and having a close friend injured in a car bombing. What Swift said distressed her most, however, was a situation that involved her squad leader, the sergeant to whom she directly reported in Iraq. She claimed that he propositioned her for sex the first day the two of them arrived in Iraq and that she felt coerced into having a sexual relationship with him that lasted four months – the relationship consisting, she said, of his knocking on her door late at night and demanding intercourse. When she finally ended this arrangement, Swift told me, the sergeant retaliated by ordering her to do solitary forced marches from one side of the camp to another at night in full battle gear and by humiliating her in front of her fellow soldiers. (The sergeant could not be reached, but according to an internal Army report, he denied any sexual contact with Swift.)
As it often is with matters involving sex and power, the lines are a little blurry. Swift does not say she was raped, exactly, but rather manipulated into having sex – repeatedly – with a man who was above her in rank and therefore responsible for her health and safety. (Some victims’ advocates use the term ”command rape” to describe such situations.) Swift says that the other two sergeants – one in Kuwait and one back home in Fort Lewis, both a couple of ranks above her – made comments like ”You want to [expletive] me, don’t you?” or when Swift asked where she was to report for duty, responded, ”On my bed, naked.”
(…) I went to see Swift last July as I was immersed in a series of interviews with women who’d gone to Iraq and come home with PTSD. I was trying to understand how being a woman fit into both the war and the psychological consequences of war. The story I heard over and over, the dominant narrative really, followed similar lines to Swift’s: allegations of sexual trauma, often denied or dismissed by superiors; ensuing demotions or court-martials; and lingering questions about what actually occurred.
Update: It looks like at least one of these things is not like the other: Gawker posts about the NYT editor’s note saying that one of the women in this article might actually be making it all up. Not good.