When I got involved in the ‘movement’ to end violence in the military, it was after serving fourteen years in the military. I went from one mission to another, and much like the military the purpose was clearly defined but those in charge swayed greatly from what was in writing. No matter what the job is whether it be in the military or in a movement, you need those in charge to be loyal to those who they are fighting for. Much like Community Planning, you need your ‘customer’ to have buy-in. Who are we fighting for? Our active duty military ultimately so we could prevent them from becoming disabled veterans.
I could have just walked away from the military and moved on with a happy, healthy life living with PTSD and on a fixed income BUT that is not who I am which is exactly what my point is. I reported violent crimes to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else. I stepped forward and spoke out publicly to do the same. In the meantime, we had all kinds of competing issues knocking us down or drowning us out. For example, despite being committed to preventing rape in the military, others were committed to promoting themselves, becoming famous, or maybe even ensuring women have access to the most dangerous job in America: combat.
I already know that ‘we can do it.’ But the numbers do not lie. Thirty-five percent (35%) of our female soldiers have died of non-combat deaths overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. Non-combat deaths include suicide, suspected suicide, homocide, under investigation (infinity), medical, and unknown. General Ray Odierno (US Army) was recently quoted admitting that 10% of the force do not believe women should serve in the military. Finally, someone admitted that there is discrimination in the military when it comes to women in combat. They deserve to have answers as do the parents, friends, and family members who have lost their female soldier to a non-combat death.
I got involved in the ‘movement’ to prevent the violence from occurring in the first place. But as we moved along, the ‘movement’ got swayed into a competition of suffering. The message that came across to me was that if you didn’t get raped, then you didn’t suffer which is 110% so not true hence the reason I use the term military sexual trauma. Although, I feel that MST minimizes the crimes themselves, I use this term to include all those who have been harmed by another while serving their country. Rape is one night and it was over. Gender discrimination, hazing, abuse, sexual harassment, etc. last for months if not years. I was able to move past the violent acts but the daily abuse from those in key positions of power beat me down slowly and compounded the original traumatic event.
It’s been frustrating witnessing how things have veered off course including the promotion of the Military Justice Improvement Act, which is not the answer. We need an outside entity to help hold leadership and criminals accountable by tracking those who commit even the smallest of behavioral defects and/or any retaliation. Thanks to the lack of direction and competing efforts, we gave Claire McCaskill and her cronies the power they needed to keep things status quo. We were not united at all. Until we start talking about making sexual harassment, abusive language, belittling behavior, discrimination, and other forms of abuse the priority, we are going to keep rolling in crisis mode talking about the increase in military rapes. If you study the modus operandi of predators, you will find that they carefully hone their skills and perfect their craft with every criminal act they engage in. And they escalate from making disparaging comments to women they serve with to rape and finally murder.
I served for fourteen years. I watched how they operated. I was powerless to stop the behavior unless I said something. After a while, I realized that I should be thankful that I was only experiencing sexual harassment and discrimination as opposed to sexual assault, physical assault, and rape. I felt this way because I was retaliated against after reporting the crimes of rape and sexual assault. It was the betrayal from the very people I was willing to take a bullet for that crushed my soul. I was officially indoctrinated. If you want to keep your career, you better work twice as hard to be half the man and keep your mouth shut. I was so wrong. I thought keeping my mouth shut and sucking it up would help me reach my 20 year goal, instead it hurt me more.
The rape and sexual assaults definitely kicked my fight or flight into action but the retaliation, harassment, minimizing, discrimination, oppression, and belittling is what killed me. You don’t have to have been sexually assaulted or raped to experience the impact of Military Sexual Trauma. As a matter of fact, I want those behaviors to be criminalized so we can prevent the sexual assault and/or rape. All of those behaviors are red flags and those same people may not escalate while you are around but they will on the next person that comes along. I watched my superior at my first duty station escalate over two years because he didn’t think I would say anything. I didn’t want to but had no choice when I finally realized that I needed to prevent getting raped a second time by a different person. I compared his tactics to being trapped in a domestic violence relationship that I couldn’t get a divorce from.
Military sexual trauma and domestic violence victims have a lot in common; They experience abuse over long periods of time by the very person they are supposed to trust. Victims of domestic violence understand the pain that comes with living with a daily barrage of disparaging comments and blitz attacks. Even if they never touch you, they use their bodies, words, and tone to control you and make you fearful. After months of this kind of behavior from someone you are too afraid to leave or someone you can’t leave, as in the case of our military members, it will cause PTSD. How could it not? You are living in fight or flight daily! We must empower ourselves to speak up and make the behavior stop. Until the escalation of inappropriate behavior is taken as the serious crime that it is, it will continue to get minimized and our hands will be tied until the person is touched. Only sexual assault, physical assault, and rape are considered crimes worthy of investigation by the military, if they even make it that far.
The bottom line is that until we take the crimes that lead to sexual assault and rape seriously, we will continue to churn out military members who have compounded PTSD. Let’s prevent the sexual assault, rape, suicide, and murder in the military by making the ‘lesser’ crimes more important. Stop minimizing the red flags of predators. Believe people when they tell you what is happening and finally do something about it. If Commanders were trained to recognize the patterns of these criminals, they would realize that these people do escalate. But, they are not given the data they need to make the appropriate decisions because the Commander before them can toss out any complaints, minimize the offender’s actions, and transfer the problem away.
Commanders need access to a database so they can at least note the report of inappropriate behavior or criminal activity. The military member’s report to the Commander is no different then civilians reporting to law enforcement. So why do they not have databases to track the criminal activity in the military? It should be common practice for the Commander to understand the modus operandi of predators & criminals if they are going to be decision makers in the justice process. They also need to collaborate with civilian authorities to help make connections in the local community. Predators do not discriminate. They live in our communities. It would behoove the military to work in partnership with the civilian authorities to prevent sexual assault, rape, and murder in our towns.