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You are here News Military The silent battle for servicewomen: sexual assault

The silent battle for servicewomen: sexual assault

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Harrassment of US women in militaryThe U.S. military is struggling to defend troops who are under siege day and night on ill-defined battlefields. Troops who are fighting wars in which it can be impossible to identify the enemy or to know whom to trust. And when they are betrayed, they dare not tell anyone.

They are the nation's women in uniform, and they are being sexually harassed, abused and assaulted at an alarming rate by their fellow soldiers and officers. Since 9/11, with unprecedented numbers of women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation's military leaders say that misogyny is undermining troop readiness.

Women enlist for the same reasons as other soldiers, to further their education, establish careers, and serve their country. These were Linda Bullock's motives, too, when she joined the Army Reserve at 18. She wanted to belong to a community based on honor and trust. Something she couldn't find in her own family where she had been repeatedly raped by a close relative.

Bullock was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for training.

Although she had never been away from home before, the city girl from Baltimore, "a string bean" at 5-foot-9 and 135 pounds, surprised herself with her toughness. "It was cool," she says. After two weeks of field exercises, she returned to her barracks desperate for a shower.

While the rest of her fellow soldiers left to get dressed, Bullock stayed behind, luxuriating in the hot water. The bathroom was deserted when she finally wrapped herself in a towel. Suddenly, her drill sergeant appeared.

"Who else is here?" she remembers him asking.

"No one," she said. Then he covered her mouth, threw her down and raped her.

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