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Women at War

Women at War

I\’m for encouraging any woman who wants to serve in the military, including combat positions. No reason a female can\’t hit a target just as well as a man, as well as other jobs front line soldiers perform. But it\’s obvious that the U.S. military leadership has a very big problem, well
beyond don\’t ask, don\’t tell. Any change in the traditional culture of our armed
forces is obviously causing incredible problems to people who do not fit the \”normal\”
mode of military personnel. Not only is this a huge challenge, but the leadership
up the chain of command it seems has been AWOL on many issues, especially where
women in combat are concerned.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has a lot to tackle taking over from Rumsfeld\’s
disastrous leadership, but so far he\’s been up to the challenge. Female soldiers is yet another spot that needs his immediate
attention. Volunteering for active duty, but you end up getting raped by a U.S. soldier? This is unacceptable to say the least and a serious offense worthy of a dishonorable discharge, because no military man wants to serve next to a rapist. The onslaught of incompetence, negligence and inhumanity to our fighting
men and women under Rumsfeld\’s years of neglect is just beginning to
be known, especially where female soldiers are concerned.

There have been few large-scale studies done on the particular psychiatric
effects of combat on female soldiers in the United States, mostly because
the sample size has heretofore been small. More than one-quarter of female
veterans of Vietnam developed PTSD at some point in their lives, according
to the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey conducted in the mid-\’80s,
which included 432 women, most of whom were nurses. (The PTSD rate for women
was 4 percent below that of the men.) Two years after deployment to the gulf
war, where combat exposure was relatively low, Army data showed that 16 percent
of a sample of female soldiers studied met diagnostic criteria for PTSD, as
opposed to 8 percent of their male counterparts. The data reflect a larger
finding, supported by other research, that women are more likely to be given
diagnoses of PTSD, in some cases at twice the rate of men.

Experts are hard pressed to account for the disparity. Is it that women have
stronger reactions to trauma? Do they do a better job of describing their
symptoms and are therefore given diagnoses more often? Or do men and women
tend to experience different types of trauma? Friedman points out that some
traumatic experiences have been shown to be more psychologically \’\’toxic\’\’
than others. Rape, in particular, is thought to be the most likely to lead
to PTSD in women (and in men, in the rarer times it occurs). Participation
in combat, though, he says, is not far behind.

Much of what we know about trauma comes primarily from research on two distinct
populations – civilian women who have been raped and male combat veterans.

But taking into account the large number of women serving in dangerous conditions
in Iraq and reports suggesting that women in the military bear a higher risk
than civilian women of having been sexually assaulted either before or during
their service, it\’s conceivable that this war may well generate an unfortunate
new group to study – women who have experienced sexual assault and combat,
many of them before they turn 25.

The Woman\’s War, by Sara Corbett

The issue facing female soldiers has been out there for several years, but the story today brings it home in stark turns. Make sure you read it. It\’s worth your time.

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