It's been difficult for me to express how I've been feeling this past week, until I read this diary which began:
I am a slut.I'm a slut, too. But I've known this for decades. I knew it since I first enlisted in the Active Duty Air Force in 1984, and I was never allowed to forget it.
Before this week, I didn't know I was a slut. But Rush Limbaugh set me straight:
I'm also a whore, hysterical, and completely incapable of working on communications equipment.
I shouldn't have even been in the military.
Because I'm a woman.
I read the words written by Kaili Joy Gray and I understood. I felt the pain. And yet another part of me celebrated. I wanted to say, welcome to the world of the Military Woman, because now, I have hope that what women in the military have been experiencing for so long will finally receive the attention it deserves, and together, civilians and military personnel can work together to set right the horrible wrongs being perpetrated on our women in the military, as well as our women veterans.
The Issue: The Republican War on Women has now severely pissed off the Civilian Sector, and rightly so! It's about time the Republicans did something so supremely stupid that the majority of our country is now galvanized behind the Rights of Women!
But a serious problem remains!
It's huge. It's vast. And it's been hidden for a very long time. Decades, in fact. Those who refuse to believe in conspiracies should believe in this one. The DOD doesn't want you to know.
SWAN, Service Women's Action Network is still having difficulty gaining documents under the Freedom of Information Act from the DOD which reflect complete statistics regarding their response to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence in the military.
From "Exposing the Ugly Details of the Military Sexual Violence Epidemic" it's the government's view:
...the public needn’t concern itself with the ugly details of the epidemic of sexual violence in the military. After all, it duly releases annual statistics on the prevalence of sexual assault within each branch, encapsulating in a tidy number how many thousands of episodes have been reported and what percentage of those cases result in courts-martial, nonjudicial punishment, and other corrective measures.Further:
Without allowing the public to take account of the role that variables like race, gender, rank, and unit play in the disposition of the individual cases behind the statistics, the military can only enlighten the public as to what the problem is, not why it continues to flourish.
The information the government does make available to the public simply does not zero in on what we need to know. For example, despite a federal law that requires the government to track what action is taken by command on each domestic violence incident and the number of incidents that command determined should not lead to disciplinary action, the DoD still does not systematically collect and share this information.If you could, please read that last paragraph again. Soak it in. Now, think of Rush Limbaugh and the fact that even military members are calling for his removal from what we used to call, Armed Forces Radio Network! Rush sexually harasses a civilian woman and all hell breaks loose. However, military women are sexually harassed, and severely, on a daily basis, and we do nothing to assist them. The DOD won't even release the statistics.
Moreover, the government’s reports on sexual assault completely fail to take account of sexual harassment, which is even more prevalent than assault among military personnel. In fact, in one recent VA study, 90 percent of respondents reported sexual harassment while in the military. VA research also reveals sexual harassment while in military service to be as strong a predictor of PTSD among women veterans as in-service sexual assault; this correlation mirrors the strong link between combat exposure and PTSD among male veterans. Moreover, Defense Manpower Data Center surveys have found an alarmingly high correlation between incidents of assault and prior incidents of harassment.
Is this okay in your opinion? Just curious. There's more:
There is the issue of Question 21 on security clearance forms. As SWAN points out in their February 29, 2012 press release, the question covers psychological and emotional health, and asks anyone applying for or renewing a security clearance to provide specific details on any therapy for a mental or emotional health condition in the previous seven years. Exemptions include counseling related to combat, marital or family issues, or grief counseling that does not involve any violence by the applicant.
Senator Jon Tester is also pushing for Question 21 to be changed because counselling for rape, sexual assault, and extreme sexual harassment is NOT exempt. This shows clear bias against women (although men are subjected to sexual abuse in the military at increasingly high numbers.)
The DOD stated they would change the wording on the question but has yet to do so, or provide clear guidance on how to answer this question in the interim.
It is 2012 and sexual discrimination is alive and well in our Armed Forces.
And there's more:
I suppose most people believe the military has an effective way of dealing with rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. But it doesn't. A huge problem is that when someone like me is raped (and I was; 4 times, and sexually assaulted once in the presence of Security Police during a "sting" operation), we can't simply trot off base and contact the nearest police station. We must stay within our Chain of Command and/or report what happened to our Security personnel.
Here's the problem with our Chain of Command...
Part of the military’s intransigence on meaningful change lies in its insistence that it already has the tools to effectively prosecute offenders and administer justice to survivors. And yet, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) has been the Pentagon’s primary answer to stopping sexual assault in the ranks. To be clear, SAPRO has no law enforcement authority. It has no authority to prosecute or punish. Its messaging is questionable, as it is rife with rape mythology and victim-blaming, including the infamous poster that says, “Ask Her When She’s Sober.” In other words, SAPRO cannot administer justice to anyone. Moreover, the SAPRO Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database, a centralized database for the collection of information regarding sexual assaults, required by law in 2009, has yet to appear. Military and Congressional leaders need to stop expecting solutions from SAPRO, and start working together to ensure victims get access to real justice. - National Press Club Statement by Anu Bhagwati Executive Director, Service Women’s Action Network, March 6, 2012And keep in mind, many of the laws discussed within this post which enacted things like SAPRO, Restricted, and Unrestricted Reporting didn't occur until after the years 2001 through 2003 and later. Rape and Sexual Assault in the military has been occurring at epidemic proportions with no way to report without reprisals for decades; since before I enlisted in the 1980's.
What is worse is that Commanders are the judge and jury in these cases. The very Commander within the Chain of Command of the individual who has been raped, as well, in the vast majority of cases, the rapist.
What do you think is going to happen? There is great pressure not to report. And if one does report, reprisals can be extreme. In many cases, the individual who reported is re-victimized by the system, harassed, and may eventually be kicked out, branded with a "personality disorder" rather than PTSD (which is usually what one has after being raped) so that they cannot even claim benefits from the Veteran's Administration.
She disputed the diagnosis, but it was not until months later that she found what seemed powerful ammunition buried in her medical file, portions of which she provided to The New York Times. “Her command specifically asks for a diagnosis of a personality disorder,” a document signed by the psychiatrist said.In addition, the reports of those who do report the crimes perpetrated against them are not always saved so that they can file for benefits later. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.,discusses a new bill, which would help make it easier and safer for soldiers to file reports of sexual assault, preserving those reports, making filing for claims easier.
Veterans’ advocates say Captain Carlson stumbled upon evidence of something they had long suspected but had struggled to prove: that military commanders pressure clinicians to issue unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of troops.
Again, more information of which many are unaware, is that the laws for PTSD claims were recently eased for those seeking benefits for PTSD due to combat. However, for those seeking benefits for PTSD due to MST, the hurdles to prove those claims remain incredibly high. The hoops one has to jump through are simply enormous. Even if one has all proof outlined in the Veteran's Administration's manual covering these claims, M21-1MR, these claims are routinely denied, repeatedly.
In my case, I had to obtain a lawyer. When my attorney saw my claim file, he was a bit shocked. I was told I had an open a shut case. I simply shrugged and told him I was aware of that, but the VA didn't care and neither did either of my two prior Veteran Service Officers. My attorney finally won my claim. And that's the saddest part of all... the fact that many who really need the benefits others are so easily able to obtain are repeatedly denied them, even with ample proof.
But, there's more:
On March 6, 2012, much activity ensued pushing the issue of Military Sexual Trauma a bit further into the limelight; in part due to Rush Limbaugh's comments, I'm sure, but mostly due to the nation-wide screenings and impending release of the ground breaking documentary film "The Invisible War". In addition, a second lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight service members by SWAN, two of those service members appeared in the documentary.
And most importantly, on March 6, 2012, a press conference was held regarding the Military Sexual Assault Litigation in Washington D.C. and shown on CSpan. The list of speakers includes:
Service Women's Action Network
American Association of University Women
Protect Our Defenders
Feminist Majority->Political Action Committee
Department of State
The Headquarters of the Marine Corps released this statement, apparently in an attempt to create some damage control. Two of the women who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit and who were also profiled in "The Invisible War" were stationed at the Marine Corps Barracks, Washington, D.C.
However, any MST Survivor knows this is too little too late.
For my own story, as a communications maintenance specialist, I was selected as one of the "elite" to be interviewed for White House Comm (what is known as White House Communications Command). This was around 1992, about 4 years after the worst was over for me. However, by that time I had entered therapy with a private therapist. I had a clearance and didn't want to lose it. As a result, I was pulled aside and asked if my "sexual assaults" would affect my job.
I laughed, because by that time, I was also running a Priority 1, 24/7, Maintenance Control Facility in our Logistics center. It wasn't affecting my job there. They knew it; I knew it. But I'm not dumb. They knew that, too.
White House Comm sets up and maintains communications for the President. When assigned there, for four years, you don't wear a uniform. You wear civilian clothes.
And only the top 1% make it there. It is most definitely a male dominated environment in the middle of a politically charged environment; and I would be one of a very few women there... not protected by a uniform (which let's face it... usually does afford one some respect, at least from civilians).
I knew it would affect my job, and I wasn't going to place myself in that situation. Not after all I had endured. No, I was far from stupid.
I certainly do not wish to dishonor any of my fellow veterans or current active duty servicemen and servicewomen. But as for the Marine Corps Barracks, Washington, D.C., well...
I don't buy your statement. Not one bit.
I'm proud of my service, and I'm proud of our military! I always have been and I always will be.
And though I'm sure I may feel the backlash from those who've continued to remain silent, I no longer care. I remained silent for far too long and it caused me a breakdown for doing so. I want my life back.
I also want all of us, as a caring, empathetic, compassionate collective, to make sure this travesty ends and no further pain is allowed to occur (if at all possible) and if it does, those perpetrating that pain are properly punished for their crimes.
This is the right thing to do and it's time to do it.
Help support Military Sexual Assault Survivors by signing the petition initiated by Kori Cioca, one of the women profiled in "The Invisible War".
Here is what you're signing:
We, as a society, can no longer allow this criminal epidemic to continue unabated. We are losing too many good soldiers to an unjust system.
Bills have now been introduced that would provide justice for sexual assault survivors currently serving in the U.S. Military, and would help alleviate the suffering of veterans who were sexually assaulted. In order for these bills to become law, they must pass a vote by specific committees prior to going to the full House or Senate for a final vote. Unfortunately most bills never get out of committee. Please join us in asking the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard “Buck” McKeon and the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Carl Levin to support H.R. 3435, The STOP Act, and H.R. 1517, The Holley Lynn James Act.
We also ask Representative Jeff Miller and Senator Patty Murray who chair the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs respectively, to support H.R. 930, a bill that would make getting disability for military sexual assault-related condition from the Veterans Administration much easier.
Your overwhelming support of this legislature will send a clear message to the Department of Defense that it needs to take immediate measures to take the decision to investigate and prosecute rape crimes out of the hands of commanders, and provide access to disability for military sexual-assault survivors.