The Combat Within: Female Veterans and PTSD Benefits

Go check out Courtney’s newest column at the American Prospect about the need for female veterans who are sexual assault survivors and are suffering PTSD to be classified as disabled and eligible for services.

It makes a certain amount of sense that the Veterans Affairs Office is compelled to differentiate combat from non-combat veterans. Those who have been exposed to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the stress of direct negotiation, and the trials of patrol on a daily basis certainly have a higher rate of PTSD and other disabilities following their tour than those who have not. But it’s not a zero-sum game. When the sexual assault rates among female veterans are so astronomically high — at least 30, and as high as 70 percent, according to Helen Benedict, author of the new book The Lonely Soldier — the “combat” classification becomes a moot point. Keep in mind that sexual assault is a hugely underreported crime; even the Pentagon admits that only 10 to 20 percent of cases are probably being reported.
Add to this the reality that military culture is built on breaking down some of our most basic psychological instincts through humiliation, deprivation, and submission, and it becomes less and less logical to separate the soldiers who have seen combat from those who haven’t. Everyone who signs his or her name on the dotted line of a military contract is destined for psychological trauma of one kind or another, especially if they’re female.

(emphasis mine)
I think this point of the culture of humiliation, deprivation and submission is not only a helpful frame in understanding the culture within the military, but also in thinking about the mindset that motivates the military to then create those types of conditions amongst the communities we are warring with be it via prisons or the use of rape as a weapon of war. It seems logical to us that a US military culture that demands a certain level of emasculation, would create, produce and sustain a culture of sexual violence.

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