91.7 VMFM Radio has invited me to speak about Sexual Predators in Our Military today at 3 PM. You can listen to the livestream and call in to ask questions at (570) 348-6202.
I won't lie to you, I'm nervous as all get out. It's not often that military wives get interviewed about anything other than deployment. I'm going to give it my best shot.
This diary will serve as a place to share all the links I hope to mention! And let's start with the trailer to The Invisible War:
My intro to Military Sexual Trauma (MST) came about in a mundane sort of way. Although I have friends who suffer from MST, I didn't even know it had a name. I had been volunteering with Netroots For The Troops and getting ready for Netroots Nation 2012 when I learned about a panel discussion on MST. Our very own Joan Brooker had invited two very knowledgeable women, Elizabeth Stinson and Col. Ann Wright, to discuss the topic at NN12. I helped edit her introductory diary and started thre process of learning more about the hell that so many women and men in the military have gone through.
Just that diary alone was enough for me to start asking my military husband, a Colonel in the Air Force, more questions. He kept telling me about all that was going on in the Air Force to educate folks about sexual harassment and sexual assault. He believed it was the same for other services. He was sure that these stories were overblown. Super sure, in fact. He even wanted to know the numbers by service because he believed the Air Force might be doing a better job than the other services. We had two or three conversations about how hard it would be for a victim to report this crime and he told me that there are all kinds of ways for victims to report. He was completely convinced. And I was bound and determined to come home with enough information to have an intelligent discussion about the matter. I came back with something better - a film that he just had to see that could do the convincing for me, The Invisible War.
The timing of the release of the film was ideal. While I saw the screening at NN12, it was opened the following week in our new home, Washington DC. I invited friends on Facebook to join us and another couple, both military, went along. Now, this isn't really a film you need to see twice, but I did. I hope that each and every once of you sees it at least once. It's life changing. I have always known that rape was wrong but even I was guilty of a certain amount of victim blaming, I just didn't realize it. This film is so clear cut and so well presented, that you can't leave the theater without knowing something has to change and not just in the military but in our society as a whole.
All three military officers agreed that the film should be at least a part of the training received by our troops. They went in unsure of what to expect and walked out knowing that something has to change. That is one powerful film, folks. It is not a military bashing film but an honest look at a system that blames and investigates the victim just for reporting a crime. Many of these women were accused of adultery even though they were not even married though the perpetrator was.
It was only after my husband watched the film that I asked again what he thought. The film opened his eyes. He isn't yet ready to decide what changes need to happen but he is open to discussing change overall. He isn't sure what he can do to make change happen either but that is often the way we all feel. It's hard to figure out where we fit in to the big picture.
What I do know is that we need more military officers who are ready to have the conversation, not just repeat the military dogma of the day. We especially need those officers who will be serving as commanders to be open-minded. Even though Secretary Panetta has removed the right to make a decision about investigating rape cases from the Command level up a few levels higher, it is still the Commander who sets the tone for his or her men and women. Commanders will make the biggest difference overall. And you can help make this happen by signing that petition to President Obama - the Commander-in-Chief is well-respected by today's troops and if he requests that they watch this film, it will happen.
As I've written about this topic over the last few weeks, I've learned how to frame a few points a little better.
One is about how the press is advertising the current scandal at Lackland AFB. They call it a Sex Scandal. Sex is not scandalous. Rape is scandalous. Assault is scandalous. Harassment is scandolous. Sex is what happens with consent of the participating adults.
Women are not the only victims. Men are victims in equal numbers but are even less likely to speak out. This current scandal at Lackland only became known because ONE victim came forward. The other 30 were discovered by beginning an investigation of that single case. It is only through the investigative process that the truth can be revealed. So investigate already! All cases, not just those the JAG deems 'winnable.'
This isn't about women in the service. This shouldn't be an argument about any social experiment that has gone awry. It is an insult to men in general when anyone says that just being in close proximity to women encourages this kind of behavior. Bullshit. This goes back to the conversation about the difference between sex and rape. Sex happens between consenting adults. Rape happens when no consent is given. Rape happens when someone of a higher rank requests sex and the victim feels no other choice but to give in to that command. It broke my heart to hear the words of a young female trainee, "What else was I supposed to do?"
Lots of folks haven't been able to see The Invisible War. You can request to host a screening in your home or at the local library or community center. Please do. Especially if you live on or near a military base. Offer to host a screening at your local Family Support Center or at the Base Theater. Please.
If you want to learn more NOW, you can also watch this film online, Uniform Betrayal, Rape in the Military. Give yourselves a good hour for watching and a good time after for processing the information. Have a few tissues on hand if you're the crying type. I am.
Just in case you're interested, here is a list of diaries I've written on this topic, all with links to more sources:
And just in case you missed that link in the intro:
Wish me luck, folks!