Army soldiers in the Persian Gulf allegedly committed at least 34 sex-related crimes during the yearlong Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations, Army documents have revealed.
In at least 31 instances, the victims were other U.S. troops. Other victims included one Saudi civilian and one Saudi soldier.
In several cases, victims did not report the alleged assaults for weeks or months, but the Army said Friday that all reported cases resulted in investigations and, in at least one well-publicized case, court-martial proceedings have begun.
Details of the alleged assaults were culled from Army documents and are to be reported in next Monday’s editions of Army Times, an independent news publication covering matters of interest to Army personnel.
Army spokesman Maj. Rick Thomas said the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which investigates potential criminal conduct by Army personnel, provided the Army Times with 34 reports of “founded cases of sexual-related crimes” committed in the Persian Gulf region between July, 1990, and June, 1991, in which the Desert Storm and Desert Shield operations took place.
In at least 33 cases, the publication said, the Army recommended prosecution. While documents indicated that some charges had been filed, they did not disclose the outcome of any of the cases.
The alleged crimes range from rape to indecent assault. In several instances, soldiers are alleged to have committed several rapes.
Retired Army Specialist Barbara Franco, who counsels soldiers and others who suffer from trauma, told the Army Times that she knows at least five female soldiers who maintain they were raped in the Persian Gulf region.
On July 2, two weeks after one alleged victim, Specialist Jacqueline Ortiz, told a Senate committee that she had been sodomized by a sergeant in her unit, the Army brought charges against him. The action came 18 months after the alleged incident, for which authorities initially reprimanded Ortiz.
The Army maintains detailed statistics on crimes involving its personnel, but service officials said Friday that it was not clear whether the rate of alleged criminal sexual misconduct was higher in the Persian Gulf than usual for the Army. But they acknowledged that in a foreign deployment situation, where good discipline is considered paramount, any such misconduct is cause for concern.
In a 1989 Defense Department survey, 11% of Army men and women said they had been the victims of actual or attempted rape or sexual assault at the hands of fellow service members in the previous year. The survey shows the reported incidence of such assault--as well as many less violent forms of sexual harassment--to be slightly higher in the Army than in the other military services.
In 1991, the Army determined that 317 reported sexual assaults involving its personnel merited further criminal investigation, according to spokesman Thomas. That figure is down slightly from statistics taken during the previous four years. Thomas and Army spokesman Capt. Bill Buckner said the service is conducting extensive training of soldiers on sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape prevention.
The report said interviews with soldiers during and after the war indicated that at least one gang rape occurred. But the documents do not detail those allegations.
Sources quoted by the Army Times cautioned that the number of actual assaults that took place in the Gulf may be much higher.
“A lot of women don’t report it,” said one female sergeant first-class who said she had been the victim of sexual harassment but not sexual assault. “The problem is not going to go away until women stop getting accused of asking for it.”