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MELISSA stopped drinking water in the early afternoon so she didn't have to walk to the latrines after dark. Women were being raped by members of their own battalion and she didn't want to risk that. She knew the risk of dehydration in 120 degree heat but " raped by fellow troops? Wasn't going to happen to her.
Some women joked about it but these came from fear of peeing. One said, "Hell, if I dehydrate at least I won't be afraid of fellow Americans in the infirmary."
Six years ago she'd joined the National Guard and her contract stipulated she'd never be in combat. She'd really believed she'd be building roads and fighting fires in Montana while saving money for college. Even without the risk of rape, life was a far cry from the recruiter's promise: "You'll build houses and orphanages. The Iraqis will love you and greet you with flowers and candy."
It finally happened because one woman actually died of dehydration and Melissa had stupidly thought things had been tightened up. She and her friend went to the latrines and both were attacked. Through the blanket thrown over her head Melissa heard her friend screaming but no one heard them over the sound of the generators. Then the tearing and the raping with her arms and head held so tight she couldn't fight back.
Her friend wouldn't file a complaint. "What good is that? The brass never do anything. No, I'll take the medical care but I'm not filing a complaint."
I create the War Series -- mask and accompanying story -- to share the reality of war as I believe too many stories are not being told. The details in this story come from the story Brig. Col. Janis Karpinski shared with investigators regarding Abu Ghraib.
See other pieces in the series at my blog: http://www.mothersspeakaboutwarandterror.org