Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sexual Assault in the Military & Benedict's Sand Queen

From today's NY Daily News article "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ripped into top Pentagon lawyers during Senate subcommittee hearing, charging military has been too slow to stem tide of sex crimes in ranks:"
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was not shy in chairing her first subcommittee hearing as she laced into Pentagon officials Wednesday for failing to curb a rash of sexual assaults in the armed services. New York’s junior senator, elected to her first full term in November, took the reins of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Personnel Subcommittee this year and has made it a priority to go after the problem of rampant rapes, sexual assaults and sexual harassment in the military. Almost 2,500 cases of sexual violence were reported in 2011, but the Defense Department estimated that if all victims had actually come forward, that number would have been close to 19,000. In emotional and sometimes harrowing testimony Wednesday, three victims who were raped while they were enlisted said the system is broken and that victims are discouraged from reporting a crime or ostracized if they do so. It was the first Senate hearing on the topic in nearly a decade.
For a novel that delves into sexual assault in the military, try Sand Queen by Helen Benedict:
Nineteen-year-old Kate Brady joined the army to bring honor to her family and democracy to the Middle East. Instead, she finds herself in a forgotten corner of the Iraq desert in 2003, guarding a makeshift American prison. There, Kate meets Naema Jassim, an Iraqi medical student whose father and little brother have been detained in the camp. Kate and Naema promise to help each other, but the war soon strains their intentions. Like any soldier, Kate must face the daily threats of combat duty, but as a woman, she is in equal danger from the predatory men in her unit.

UPDATE:  you can find a longer review of Benedict's book over at the Literary Treats blog.


  1. A horrible situation, and one that should definitely be brought to people's attention. Thank you for linking to the NY Daily News article, and I agree that Helen Benedict's Sand Queen covers the subject well.