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Military Rape Awareness Week Starts At Times Square Recruiting Station; Recruiters Shut Out Retired Officer


Military Rape Awareness Demonstration, Oct. 13, 2009, Times Square

Military Rape Awareness Week Starts At Times Square Recruiting Station
By Elaine Brower | Op Ed News

To kick-off a weeklong list of nationwide events aimed at educating the public about recent reports that one in three women in the military are raped, Veterans for Peace, the sponsor of this campaign, along with activists from local New York city area groups descended upon the Times Square Recruiting Station in Manhattan. A press conference was conducted by retired US Army Col. Ann Wright, where media attention on this topic was quite impressive. The cameras and reporters swarmed Col. Wright as she began to make her statements. She said, "It is a responsibility of us as veterans to warn young women that according to Veterans Administration studies, one in three women are sexually assaulted or raped while they are in the military."

Staff Sgt. Sandra Lee of the US Army Reserves was there to speak out for the first time about the fact that she was raped twice while in a combat duty station in Iraq in 2005. She was physically, emotionally and mentally upset to recount her abuse in the military by a member of her own unit. She stood, supported by Ann Wright and Eve Ensler, author and playwright of the “Vagina Monologues and V-Day”, recounting the details of how she survived her ordeal to come forward today in front of cameras standing in Times Square.

VFP chapters will have actions during the entire week from October 13th to the 16th at Armed Forces recruiting stations around the Country to demand that military recruiters alert women who are thinking about joining the military about the high possibility they will be raped while in the controlled, highly disciplined military environment. Sexual assault and rape of women and men in the US military increased so dramatically during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that in 2005 then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld formed a task force on sexual assault; however, the task force did not meet until 2008. Nearly one-third of a nationwide sample of women veterans who sought health care through the Veterans Administration said they experience rape or attempted rape during their service. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped. The Department of Defense has been reluctant to release statistics on sexual assault of men in the military, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the statistics are alarmingly high. Over the past 10 years, more than 700 US Army Recruiters have been accused of sexual misconduct or rape. Sixty years of US military studies and task forces since women began entering the military in larger numbers have not lessened the incidents of assault and rape.

Also speaking at the rally and press conference was Leah Bolger, National Vice-President of Veterans for Peace. She stated that although she was not herself a victim while she served 20 years in the US Navy as an officer, she had witnessed abuse inflicted on others under her command. After, about 50 activists marched upon the Times Square Recruiting Station, holding signs announcing “STOP RAPE IN THE MILITARY!” and bumper stickers stating that “1 in 3 women are raped in the military”, which they planned to paste on the windows of the target building. But this proved unsuccessful since there was a media event surrounding the area, and although Col. Wright demanded access to the recruiting station building, none was granted. The march was spirited and angry, and continued around the island positioned on 47th and Broadway. Read more.

Pics of Military Rape Awareness Action below the fold. Click "Read more" below.

Debra Sweet wrote:

How can the US military save Afghan women, when 1 in 3 of its own female members are raped by their fellow soldiers and Marines?

I was in Times Square today as Sandra Lee, her voice shaking, and with great courage, told what she's gone through since being raped in Iraq in 2004. She is an Army staff sergeant, and the attacker was a fellow soldier. She spent years not knowing what to do, and wanting to die, but somehow found her voice and spoke publicly about the attack for the first time today. Video.

Her story is much more common than the military admits. Veterans for Peace today launched a week of events to raise the issue, quoting a former soldier, "There are only three things the guys let you be if you're a girl in the military - a bitch, a ho, or a dyke." Ann Wright & Leah Bolger of Vets for Peace, and Eve Ensler, who has dedicated her life to stopping violence against women, joined Sandra.

Elaine Brower wrote today, "Sexual assault and rape of women and men in the US military increased so dramatically during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that in 2005 then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld formed a task force on sexual assault; however, the task force did not meet until 2008. Nearly one-third of a nationwide sample of women veterans who sought health care through the Veterans Administration said they experienced rape or attempted rape during their service. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped.

"The Department of Defense has been reluctant to release statistics on sexual assault of men in the military, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the statistics are alarmingly high. Over the past 10 years, more than 700 US Army Recruiters have been accused of sexual misconduct or rape. Sixty years of US military studies and task forces since women began entering the military in larger numbers have not lessened the incidents of assault and rape."

One can't talk about the rape of American soldiers without looking at the war crimes perpetrated on Iraqi and Afghan women in the course of these occupations. Veterans report that pornography is encouraged in the war zone; women are de-humanized. There's speculation that the photographs of detainee abuse the Obama administration now refuses to release include images of rapes. The rest of the world knows this is an integral part of the US occupations. It's the American people who are largely blind to it. To glimpse the reality of US rape in Iraq...and it's gruesome...look at these photos, which may be among those suppressed by Obama.

Remember that George Bush, and Laura, Hilary Clinton and feminist leaders sold the invasion of Afghanistan to the world as a mission to "save" the women of Afghanistan from the Taliban and the burka. I heard Zoya, from the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women, speak last week. She said that under the Americans, Afghanistan is a "free country...a free country for rapists, opium runners, warlords and foreign troops." She spoke bitterly of the Taliban years, but said that Hamid Karzai's government has notorious warlord ministers he pardoned for notorious rapes, and that people hate the US occupation and Karzai so much they are going back to support the Taliban. "In the past few years, only some cosmetic changes have been made regarding women's rights," Zoya said, critiquing eight years of occupation by U.S. and NATO troops. "The burka is not any more in the papers, in the law, but because there is so much insecurity, so much rape and violence, many women still wear the burka."

PBS is showing a Frontline episode called Obama's War tonight on the fighting this summer in Afghanistan. As I write, I'm watching US troops meeting with Afghan men twice their age, in a culture they don't begin, or try, to understand, instructing them in how to "cooperate" in stopping the Taliban, "for their own good." Occupying imperialist, armies can't do any good. The shame is that there are people justifying such immoral, unjust occupations, and that Peace Prizes are given for expanding them.

Debra Sweet, Director, The World Can't Wait

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for having the courage to fight on the battle field and ,unfortunately , back at home, she & Col. Wright deserve our complete support.

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