Women at war all too often do battle on two different fronts, as author Helen Benedict says in her new book, “The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq.” There’s the fight they signed up for and the one that can make them targets of their fellow soldiers in the most isolating and devastating ways.
In Iraq, women still only make up one in 10 troops, and because they are not evenly distributed, they often serve in a platoon with few other women or none at all.
This isolation, along with the military’s traditional and deep-seated hostility towards women, can cause problems that many female soldiers find as hard to cope with as war itself— degradation and sexual persecution by their comrades, and loneliness instead of the camaraderie that every soldier depends on for comfort and survival.
Between 2006 and 2008, some 40 women who served in the Iraq War spoke to me of their experiences at war. Twenty-eight of them had been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped while serving.