Monday, November 29, 2010

Why Joining the U.S. Military is Especially Dangerous for Women

By Isis Goldberg

For some high school students joining the U.S. military can seem like an attractive alternative to pursuing higher education.  Other students who think they can't afford a college education or believe their grades aren’t good enough, see the military as their only option.  For women, there exists an especially high and unexpected physical risk - the risk of being sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier. 

The “War Against Terror” has been the least popular war in the history of the United States.  As a result, instead of enforcing a draft, President George W. Bush inserted a clause to the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 which allowed military recruiters free access to all high school students' social security numbers, telephone numbers, and addresses.  Consequently, many inner-city students were, and continue to be visited, even hassled, by military recruiters and enticed with rewards such as:  money, cars, and even citizenship for undocumented students and their families. 

For women who decide to join the military, they face a staggering risk of rape or sexual assault. According to a report, thirty percent of women enrolled in the U.S. military are victims of rape while seventy-one percent of women become victims of a sexual assault and ninety percent are sexually harassed.  These statistics were gathered from women who visited a veteran's hospital, although other studies pose the percentage of victims from recent wars even higher.

Unfortunately, even these numbers may not be the correct figures as many rape incidents go unreported.  The U.S. military is most literally a boys club (with a female population of 14 %) and many female recruits are encouraged to keep silent to promote group morale.  Not surprisingly, many women probably choose not report their attacks because only 8 % of military sexual assault cases are referred to courts martial.  Alternatively, they run the risk of facing negative treatment and being hushed for exposing the charges.

The few cases which ultimately end up before a military tribunal, and result in convictions, usually end up handed down minimal sentences to perpetrators.

The high incidence of rape in the military has been a hot topic for some time, some measures taken to combat it. Yet, there is still a grave risk associated with being a female in the U.S. military.  If you know a female who is considering joining the military, please let them know of this additional risk which is associated with doing so.  One must make an informed decision when deciding whether you want to trust your life to the very people from whom you will likely need protection.

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