Meet Master Sgt. Cindy Rathbun. Her hair started falling out in clumps when she arrived in Iraq in September 2006, reports USA Today. This physical manifestation of wartime stress wasn't the only thing causing hair loss. You see, being in Iraq brought back the long suppressed pain for Rathbun of being raped by a superior early on in her military career. According to USA Today, "The VA says 20% of women seeking its care since 2002 showed symptoms of military sexual trauma, compared with 1.1% of male veterans." It's shades of Jamie Leigh Jones all over the place in Iraq and Afghanistan! The worst, for these women, seems to be what those in the military call "rape by rank," which is when men higher in the chain of command prey on the vulnerability of their underlings.
Explains Navy vet Lauren Bess, who was raped by a fellow sailor at a naval base in Florida: "In the military, they train you that your brother is there always for you...The person who hurt me was someone who was there for me." Bess didn't report the rape for fear that her career would be ruined. More women have been reporting rapes since 2005, when the Pentagon began a program that allowed rape victims to get medical help without beginning a criminal inquiry. Still, it seems that the majority of sexual assault goes unpunished.
Bess and Rathbun are both graduates of the Women's Trauma Recovery Program run by the Department of Veteran's Affairs in Menlo Park, California. And while both women seem to be "on the mend," they know that there are "thousands" of other female veterans not getting the mental help they need. We can only hope that the bravery of Bess, Rathbun, and Jamie Leigh Jones telling their stories about military/occupational rape will inspire those suffering in silence to speak out.
Mental Toll Of War Hitting Female Servicemembers [USA Today]
Related: "What, Don't You Always End Up In Need Of Reconstructive Surgery After A Night Of Good Consensual Sex?"
Defense Contractors: If It Wasn't For Diplomatic Immunity-Protected Rape, They'd Never Get Laid