GI JANE. An article in the NYT magazine this weekend examined women vets and why they experience a slightly higher rate -- 24 percent compared with 19 percent of men -- of post-traumatic stress disorder than their male counterparts. The reason behind this is sexual assault and harassment, something the article calls a "double whammy" when combined with the stress of serving during wartime. The reality, as the article points out, is that the military and VA have done very little to deal with this problem. Even when women go through treatment for PTSD, they're often placed in groups of all men, some of whom are dealing with sexually assaulting someone. This often destroys the trust that these women are supposed to experience in a group therapy setting. The end of the article points out that there is one VA-run group in California especially for women suffering from PTSD -- often as the result of sexual assault. The military needs more groups like these.
Today, Women's eNews reports that VA hospitals are taking small steps to accommodate their female patients, like providing women's underwear and tampons, for instance. The article reported that women currently make up about 15 percent of the military force -- with recruitment rates on track to double those numbers in the next 13 years.
The simple reality is that the military went from being virtually an all-male institution to one with an increasing number of women. Battling the sexism that comes with the male-dominated military poses a serious challenge. Since the structure of the military is so top-down, it would be nice to see commanders taking on a zero-tolerance attitude about discrimination, harassment, and assault. The minor progress deserves to be rewarded, but the military has a long way to go to accommodate GI Jane.