Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Late soldier's letters tell of rapes at camp

Capt. Nichola Goddard, who in 2006 became the first female Canadian combat death, wrote to her husband that women working at bases in Afghanistan were often victims of sexual harassment or assault, and that in one week there had been six rapes at her camp.

“OK. Now for all the stuff I can’t say over the phone,” she wrote in a personal letter to her husband of three years, Jason Beam, on Feb. 3, 2006, a little more than three months before she was killed in a firefight with the Taliban, west of Kandahar.

“There were six rapes in the camp last week, so we have to work out an escort at night.”

Capt. Goddard, who had arrived in Afghanistan one month prior, said in that letter that she was “pissed” because all the troops had been told about the rapes, yet because one of her peers forgot to tell her, she walked the 300 metres to and from the showers unaccompanied on her first night at camp.

“You know how freaked out I get about that kind of stuff,” she wrote. “At least I had my pistol.”

Capt. Goddard’s letters are the basis of Calgary Herald columnist Valerie Fortney’s new book, Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard.

“Her husband was the only person she wrote about that to,” Ms. Fortney said in an interview with Postmedia News. “There’s so much secrecy. I wanted to go farther into that, but I came upon brick walls every time I asked other soldiers and officers about assault or harassment.

“It’s a big no-go zone. No one would even talk off the record about it.”

The letters don’t indicate who was sexually assaulted, if anyone, or who the perpetrators were, Ms. Fortney said. “But she does refer quite a bit in the letters about Afghan soldiers and civilians on the base who leered at her constantly.”


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