To kick-off a weeklong list of nationwide events aimed at educating the public about recent reports that one in three women in the military are raped, Veterans for Peace, the sponsor of this campaign, along with activists from local New York city area groups descended upon the Times Square Recruiting Station in Manhattan. A press conference was conducted by retired US Army Col. Ann Wright, where media attention on this topic was quite impressive. The cameras and reporters swarmed Col. Wright as she began to make her statements. She said, "It is a responsibility of us as veterans to warn young women that according to Veterans Administration studies, one in three women are sexually assaulted or raped while they are in the military."
Staff Sgt. Sandra Lee of the US Army Reserves was there to speak out for the first time about the fact that she was raped twice while in a combat duty station in Iraq in 2005. She was physically, emotionally and mentally upset to recount her abuse in the military by a member of her own unit. She stood, supported by Ann Wright and Eve Ensler, author and playwright of the "Vagina Monologues and V-Day", recounting the details of how she survived her ordeal to come forward today in front of cameras standing in Times Square.
VFP chapters will have actions during the entire week from October 13th to the 16th at Armed Forces recruiting stations around the Country to demand that military recruiters alert women who are thinking about joining the military about the high possibility they will be raped while in the controlled, highly disciplined military environment. Sexual assault and rape of women and men in the US military increased so dramatically during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that in 2005 then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld formed a task force on sexual assault; however, the task force did not meet until 2008. Nearly one-third of a nationwide sample of women veterans who sought health care through the Veterans Administration said they experience rape or attempted rape during their service. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped. The Department of Defense has been reluctant to release statistics on sexual assault of men in the military, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the statistics are alarmingly high. Over the past 10 years, more than 700 US Army Recruiters have been accused of sexual misconduct or rape. Sixty years of US military studies and task forces since women began entering the military in larger numbers have not lessened the incidents of assault and rape.
Also speaking at the rally and press conference was Leah Bolger, National Vice-President of Veterans for Peace. She stated that although she was not herself a victim while she served 20 years in the US Navy as an officer, she had witnessed abuse inflicted on others under her command. After, about 50 activists marched upon the Times Square Recruiting Station, holding signs announcing "STOP RAPE IN THE MILITARY!" and bumper stickers stating that "1 in 3 women are raped in the military", which they planned to paste on the windows of the target building. But this proved unsuccessful since there was a media event surrounding the area, and although Col. Wright demanded access to the recruiting station building, none was granted. The march was spirited and angry, and continued around the island positioned on 47th and Broadway.
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