Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alarming Sex Assault Rate Found Among Vets

(CBS) For a soldier, the wounds of war can be felt long after a tour of duty ends, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports, and not all of them are inflicted by the enemy. Tuesday, researchers reported that an alarming number of female soldiers have sought treatment for sexual assault committed by fellow soldiers.

A Veterans Administration study found that one in seven female veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan seeking medical care from the VA suffered sexual trauma - everything from harassment to rape.

Medical records of 125,000 war veterans, both men and women, showed 15 percent reported sexual trauma. That works out to nearly 2,600 veterans, almost all women.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, since the study covered only a fraction of the 870,000 veterans who have fought - and none still on active duty.

"I do feel that it is much higher than that, and if they could get the records of all the women that have returned that had been sexually assaulted, those afraid to come in, they would find that it's a lot higher," said Wanda Story.

Story, who was raped twice during her military service 20 years ago, now heads the United Female Veterans of America.

She says the military has done a lot to improve the climate for women, but war makes it worse.

"They're out there, they're away from their families, they're away from their girlfriends, you know, their wives," she said. "They see an opportunity."

A recent survey by the Government Accountability Office of just 13 military bases found 103 servicemembers who say they've been sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months. Numbers like that produced this jaw-dropping statement by Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif.:

"Women serving in the military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire in Iraq," Harman said.

And women who suffer sexual trauma are more likely to develop medical and mental problems. Studies show it ranks high - or higher - than combat as a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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