Jul 24, 2006
A U.S. soldier, Suzanne Swift, celebrated her 22nd birthday this July confined to base at Ft. Lewis, Washington. She was arrested at her mother’s home on June 11 for not reporting to return to duty in Iraq. When she returned home in February 2005, she accused three sergeants of sexual abuse and harassment, but the military authorities ignored her charges. So in January 2006, when she received the order to return to Baghdad, she refused to go. She told the press, “when you are over there, you are lower than dirt, you are expendable as a soldier in general, and as a woman it’s worse.” In fact, one story she told was of a superior who, when she asked him where to report for duty, said he wanted her “in my bed, naked.” Her lawyer said she had filed charges against two sergeants for demanding sex and a third for coercing it.
Her case is not the only one, whatever the military says or does about the current charges. The Miles Foundation, an organization that aids victims of violence in the army, has a list of 518 cases of sexual assault on soldiers stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Qatar since 2003. Its emergency hot line receives calls day and night. A congressman asked the secretary of defense for a report on documented cases. The military itself admitted that it knew of 2,347 sexual assaults in 2005 in the U.S. armed forces. This number, which only included recorded cases, is an increase of 40% over the previous year, which in turn was 25% higher than the year before.
It’s impossible to train soldiers for brutally repressing others and then expect that they behave like total gentlemen the rest of the time.