A look at what American women face when they go to combat—and when they return home
Vanessa M. Gezari
The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War
by Helen Thorpe
$28.00 List Price
IN JANUARY 2013, the Defense Department lifted its ban on women in combat. The Pentagon’s order opened hundreds of thousands of frontline positions in infantry, artillery, armor, and other traditionally male units to women. To many Americans, the announcement sounded radical, but to anyone who has closely watched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone served in them, it was an institutional endorsement of ground truth. Female soldiers and marines with benign-sounding job descriptions, such as medic, supply officer, and truck driver, have served in the deadliest quarters of Iraq and Afghanistan. As of January 2014, 159 women had died in those wars; more than 950 had been wounded.
Women in the military also face other perils, sometimes from within their own units. As women’s battlefield roles have evolved and the armed forces have taken a more progressive stance on job assignments, the incidence of military sexual assault has reached a staggering level. A Pentagon survey estimated that 26,000 military men and women were sexually assaulted in 2012, up from 19,300 in 2010. Of those, just 3,374 cases were reported. And just this May, a new survey found that the number of reported cases rose to 5,061 in 2013. It’s unclear whether this increase represents an overall rise in sexual assaults or—as the White House and the military claim—a greater willingness among survivors to report them. Either way, one set of numbers stands out: Of the thousands of cases reported last year, only 484 went to trial, and only 376 led to convictions.
Major policy changes and crime epidemics