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  • Why Soldiers Rape
  • For Women Warriors, Deep Wounds, Little Care
  • The Private War of Women Soldiers
  • Fiction vs. Nonfiction: Wherein Lies the Truth
  • The Frightened Muse
  • Racism Railroaded Justice in Jogger Rape
  • The Plight of Women Soldiers
  • The Scandal of Military Rape
  • Violent Veterans, The Big Picture
  • How to Lie with Statistics
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  • When Johnny Comes Marching In
  • Women at War Face Sexual Violence

The Private War of Women Soldiers


As thousands of burned-out soldiers prepare to return to Iraq to fill President Bush's unwelcome call for at least 20,000 more troops, I can't help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. And I don't mean only the hardships of war, the killing of civilians, the bombs and mortars, the heat and sleeplessness and fear.

I mean from their own comrades—the men.

I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, and every one of them said the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection.

The female soldiers who were at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, for example, where U.S. troops go to demobilize, told me they were warned not to go out at night alone.

"They call Camp Arifjan 'generator city' because it's so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can't be heard," said Abbie Pickett, 24, a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Yet, she points out, this is a base, where soldiers are supposed to be safe.

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This article appeared in Salon.com 3/7/2007.

Additional essays by Helen Benedict can be found at featurewell.com When you reach the site, just type "Helen Benedict" in the Advanced Search window. All essays are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission.