Book tells of female U.S. soldiers raped by comrades

Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:57am EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Female U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have more to fear than roadside bombs or enemy ambushes. They also are at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers.

"The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq," a book based on 40 in-depth interviews, recounts the stories of female veterans who served in combat zones and tells of rape, sexual assault and harassment by male counterparts.

Some were warned by officers not to go to the latrine by themselves. One began carrying a knife in case she was attacked by comrades. Others said they felt discouraged to report assaults.

"The horror of it is that it is their own side that is doing this to them," said the book's author, Helen Benedict, a journalism professor at Columbia University in New York. The book was released in the United States on Wednesday.

One in 10 U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are female, and more women have fought and died in the Iraq war than any since World War Two, according to U.S. Department of Defense statistics cited in the book.

Benedict said the book's title comes from the isolation female U.S. soldiers experience when combining the trauma of their combat duties with sexual harassment by fellow soldiers.

"Because women are under so much more danger now and actually in the battle, it's a particularly tragic situation because all soldiers are supposed to be able to rely on one another to watch their backs," Benedict said.

"And how can you feel that way if your fellow soldiers are harassing you all day or trying to rape you or actually even raping you?"   Continued...