friendly fire?

April 11, 2004

Ellen Goodman’s “Unfriendly Fires in the Gender Wars” is quite thought provoking:

Maybe he was right to compare sexual assaults in the military to “friendly fire.” Last week, an advocate for victims, Scott Berkowitz, told a panel of investigating congresswomen that “while these friendly fire attacks leave no trail of blood, they leave many damaged souls in their wake.” No doubt about it.

But “friendly fire” is the chosen term for a tragic mistake. It’s what we say when one soldier is hurt by another accidentally.

Sexual assault is, however, no accident. Certainly not the kind of assault reported by 129 female soldiers in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bahrain. Not the kind experienced by about 3 percent of all military women in 2002. These are intentional attacks. Women trained to fight for their country found themselves in a retro battle of the sexes.

Such stories told by female soldiers are reminders of the hot spots where women can get caught between time zones and images. On the one hand, military women are on the cutting edge of equality, recruited to be anything they want to be. On the other hand, they became something they didn’t want to be: victims.

Of course, this is not just a military story. It echoes on other playing fields of change. Just a few weeks before the panel met in Washington, I was in Boulder, Colo. On the front page of the newspaper that morning was a dramatic photograph of the University of Colorado’s women’s basketball team. On the same page, there was yet another chapter in the endless sex scandal swirling around the university and its football team.

[read the rest of the column]

This editorial appeared in the Washington Post on Saturday (where this link is from) and Goodman’s work is syndicated across the country.

Scott Berkowitz is the President and Founder of RAINN (the rape and abuse national network) in Washington, DC.

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