Posts Tagged ‘Rape in the Military’

Dominoes

May 29, 2013

Hello Friends,

The news just keeps rolling in.  Military personnel in high positions being removed from their positions, being reassigned  or resigning due to accusations of assault.  The root of the problem and just how high it goes is now being discussed among the general public.  “Military Sexual Trauma” is no longer an obscure term whispered with shame among the survivors. 

All in all – it is “good” news…as much as sexual/physical violence can be determined “good.”  The subject matter is horrible – the fact that these individuals are falling like dominoes is “good.”  The fact that people are talking about it is good.  The fact that the victims and survivors may no longer have to feel shame is good. 

I was listening to a radio commercial the other night and the announcer said, “are you one of those people who want something done….or are you one of those people who are willing to do something to change things?”

We, the survivors, are the voice of change.  Everyone who shares their story, publishes their blog, speaks out – even anonymously – is the voice of change!  We are the one’s “doing something” to make the world a better place – and to all of my fellow survivors…I thank you for your courage!  You are the light and the hope for a world without military sexual trauma!

Even the anonymous voices, like myself and Brigid, are important voices.  I have found that, in the real world, I can talk about MST and about the terrible things people experience and never tell that person that I am a survivor.  In fact, in some ways it is more powerful….because they aren’t wanting to hear the gory details or feeling pity.  Don’t pity me!  I survived and I am leading a full and happy life…I don’t want anyone’s pity…I want change!  I want justice for those who are being victimized!

Someone said to me this morning – “Well, you never have a bad morning…do you?”  Yup – she was being snotty.  She is someone who struggles with things and she prefers to live in her perceived “victimhood” than to make a choice to live another way.   I would share her life story and her trauma’s here – because she shares them with everyone else – but I will forgo that woeful tale.   A couple of years ago I did a presentation that she attended on Sensitive Practices and Public Law 103 in regards to MST treatment and compensation.  She ran around the area telling everyone that she was going to get an automatic 30% because she thinks she had MST.  I have never met an MST survivor who could go up to co-workers happy and sing-songing that she was going to get free money from the government.  Worried for her I pulled her aside and explained that it was a long, hard and stressful process and that I would be there for her.  I asked her if she needed help meeting the burden of proof…her response was, “I need to prove it?”  Yes, you will need to prove it and I started talking about methods to gain the proof. 

Her response – “Well, it was just five guys in a parking lot yelling cat calls at me…but it scared me.  I don’t have any proof – but I could really use the money.”

At that point I just about lost it.  I thought of the survivors that I know…whose lives have been shattered, who have lost their careers, many dishonorable discharged.  I thought about all of us with damage to our internal organs – or losing organs – because of our trauma. 

The money doesn’t change much in our lives.  In fact, for many of us it feels more like a slap in the face.  I know that when I first got mine my husband was understandably excited…we really needed a new roof.  All I could think of is how I earned that money…”on my back”…so to speak.  The money felt dirty – like the government was telling me what the Army had told me…that I was some kind of a whore.  Thankfully – I have found ways to overcome those feelings…but it took some time.  Watching those guys put the new roof on the house felt nasty.  That is why I always advocate to people to find something special that you really, really want and use some of the money to purchase it.  It doesn’t even have to be anything big – just something that brings you joy.  That way you can change your perception of the money…it worked great for me!  In fact, it worked so good that the last time I had to see SGT Jerk I rode my motorcycle out there.  Instead of feeling edgy and threatened I just reminded myself that in the end he didn’t win…I won! 

I don’t “win” because I have something I want or because I occasionally buy myself a new dress that I really like (something I couldn’t do after they ended my career because of the financial situation.)  I won because I choose to be the winner!

If I could share anything with my fellow survivors it would be that “Happiness is a choice.”  Choose joy!  Choose life!  Choose to be a force for change in the world.  It isn’t easy…sometimes it forces you to push and pull yourself away from dark holes and into the light of day.  There are days that all I want to do is bury my head in the covers and curl up with a cat and pounds of chocolate – heck…there are days that I do that 🙂  But they are rare.

Choosing to be happy is the greatest revenge of all – you see…when I was raped, when I was beaten, when I was assaulted…I had no choice.  They took away my right to choose, my right to decide, my right to say NO.  By God – I took it back!  It doesn’t cure anything – the PTSI, the depression, the panic, the fear…but it does make it easier to live with for me.

I know that all of the recent news is triggering for some – but try to be positive…try to think of it as good.  The dominoes are falling…and when they all fall down they will lead to something better at the end.  My hope is that they will lead to a world without MST.

Peace,

Joan

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Fixing Rape in the Military

May 16, 2013

Yes, Friends….here we go again!  This is a second case involving a Sexual Assault Preventation and Response unit NCO.  Apparently, he is accused of running a little prostitution ring and with having sexually assaulted a Private First Class. 

Can you hear us now!!!???  How many more do you have to see – how many more accusations? 

Everyone keeps talking about “how do we fix this?”  Well, I am going to share my thoughts on the “fix.”  No, it will not be easy – but nothing good is easy!  This year shows 26,000 new “club members.”  Leaving it alone is NOT an option!

1.  Replace “military” SAPRO with “prior-service” civilian contractors.  Prior service allows them to understand the military system.  Civilian contracting takes them out of the military’s sphere of control.  SAPRO should answer only to the Secretary of Defense. 

2.  All Civilian contractors working for SAPRO must be certified in peer support or social work.  They must have an understanding of trauma and recovery, as well as, training in the criminal justice system.  They also need medical training and they must be trained in rape crisis intervention!

3.  ALL physical examinations done after an assault MUST be done by a civilian facility if possible.  IF this cannot be done a SAPRO representative MUST be present and take possession of the rape kit.  NO rape kit should EVER be placed in military hands!

4.  Commanders and 1st Sergeants who fail to contact a  SAPRO representative IMMEDIATELY in a sexual assault or a reported rape will be removed from their post pending an investigation.  This goes for ALL leadership.  If the Commander reports it and the Battalion Commander doesn’t follow through – then the Battalion Commander is held responsible and removed.  If it is the Squad Leader – that goes for them, too.  ZERO TOLERANCE mean ZERO TOLERANCE!  If my career comes down to “him/her or me” believe me…I am reporting “him/her.”  (remembering that rape can be committed by either gender)

5.  All military sexual trauma cases should be turned over to civilian authority.  Both the accuser and the accused should have an attorney – civilian – and both should have a military attorney to act as an advisor. 

6.  Oops – I almost forgot about the Special Victims Units.  Also – Civilian contractors with prior military experience who are trained to work with assault victims.  They need to be contacted before the SAPRO rep.  They take over with the victim…the MP’s can deal with the accused.  This allows for a “second look” and both groups to work together.  If the accused is innocent – then that will be proven.  However, false reporting of “rape” is very rare.  Especially knowing that it will currently end the career of the victim!

Let the law be the law – the police be the police and the judges be the judge – don’t allow Commanders or NCO’s to affect what is happening.  Remove BOTH parties from the unit. 

7.  Return to segregated Basic Training.  I know that sounds weird – but it removes the male/female interaction that distracts from the initial training.  I have spoken with several females that went through co-ed basic and they were “pushed aside” to train the “real soldiers.”  I was trained in an all female company – although we did have male cadre and drill sergeants.  The females had a real opportunity to bond and to be trained.  We received the same training and we learned how to do things in a way that could overcome our physical differences from the men.  I was very lucky – our male drill sergeants were truly the best of the best!  Using this system means that you are integrating “soldiers” into AIT – not a bunch of high school kids!

It all seems so “hard” but it really doesn’t have to be!  Yes – things are going to be harder in a combat zone…the war makes life very different.  But there are people who seem to say, “This is what happens when you put men and women together.”  That is just bull!  I work with men all day long.  I spend more time with the men I work with than I do with my own husband…we all do.  However, no one is running around here raping their co-workers!  I work with both an MD and an RN who have “authority” over me and who are men – and both of them are complete professionals.  I am never afraid to be alone in a room with one of them and none of them are pushing me against desks and trying to grope me!  They don’t make sexually inappropriate statements, they don’t have porn hanging in their offices, they don’t behave in disgusting ways. 

Why is it that we don’t need to segregate the civilian workforce by gender to prevent rape?

I will tell you why – most of us are “professionals.”  Not everyone is…of course…but, by in large,  we treat one another with respect.  If an accusation is made – there are people to handle it – and they do handle it.  My boss can’t go to the police or to the “judge” and overturn an accusation, they can’t stop the process and they can’t fire me if I make a complaint.  They don’t want to pay the consequences of a lawsuit.  However, the military doesn’t seem to mind because there are no “consequences.”

It is long past time to do something to stop this!  Yes, it will be painful.  Yes, it will be a powerful change for the military.  NO – it will not reduce military readiness!  If anything, it will improve readiness because we won’t have to worry about rape in the ranks!  It will help the military recruit and retain good people.

The military is supposed to be a “professional organization” – let’s start acting like it!

Joan

The Interview

May 6, 2013

Hello, Friends,

I am stopping in to ask a huge favor! I am in need of your prayers, positive thoughts and happy energy! After years of being “stuck” in my current job…I have an opportunity for a big interview…BIG – I mean really B…I…G!

For the last year I have been exploring the Peer Support certification and receiving formal training for a lot of the work I already do with my VSO and here at EitW. Many of you know that this blog began as a way to digest my own therapy…make sense of my own trauma and as a place to spew into the WWW everything I am feeling or thinking.

As time has gone on…and as more people have taken to reading this blog – we have reached out to others as a kind of a “support group.” We are not alone. Our experiences are different – but we have a choice…we can live or we can die. I don’t necessarily mean a physical form of death…but that happens, too….but a psychological death where the bastards win. I have chosen to live.

In just a few days I will be interviewing for a job, at my same employer, that will allow me to continue doing what I love doing…helping others to find their way out of the darkness. I would be doing Peer Support on a full-time paid basis! My tail is wagging! My tongue is hanging out drooling!!!! There are no words to describe how bad I want this job! I want this job so bad I am prepared to fall down on my knees and beg!

I am good at helping people – that is what I have been told. I love to encourage people and to lift them up. I was a “bullied child.” Constantly, every day – someone would bully me. I was pushed, punched, slapped – I was sexually violated. That hurt – but what really hurt were the words. “You are stupid, worthless, a nerd, a dog a squirrel. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t smart enough. You are a failure. You bring it on yourself – ya know…you squirrel. You’re fugly, ugly, four-eyed freak.” Even writing them sends a chill down my back…I can hear them – those taunts still ring in my ears. Sometimes…it still affects me. When I feel isolated from a group, or different – I can feel the little girl in me curl up and try to hide in the corner.

I had a few close friends. Not many. I had a couple of great teachers I really liked – they liked me too! We spent time together. One of them got me through Chemistry class with a C…since I can’t do math that was a huge accomplishment!

I like to make people feel good with words. All of the people that I have met through this blog have been such an inspiration to me! They push the envelope, they reach out, they open their hearts. They have encouraged me to do the same. I was at a VSO event this weekend and this woman walked up to me and said, “you are Joan…right? I hear you help veterans – can you help me?” Of course – of course I can help. I will do anything to help.

This feels like my shot, my chance – the one thing that will make everything okay. I recently turned down a “dream job” with my church. The money was good enough…but I called my priest and said…”Father, I’m sorry. The job is perfect for me…but something is wrong! I don’t think I am supposed to leave the VA.” He laughed…and then he agreed with me. He thinks I would be perfect for the job – but he is concerned that it would require me leaving the VA – he thinks God has a purpose for me right where I am.

We both had the same concerns. We both had the same worries. You know I always say…there is no such thing as a coincidence!

Three weeks later I get an interview for a job that would allow me to do nothing but encourage and lift up my brothers and sisters who are living with mental illness. A chance to offer support to their families..I know what it is like to be a mother of a mentally ill son who has a drug problem. I know what it is like to be a homeless Veteran with three young children. To live in a domestic violence shelter. To fight with the system for benefits, for help, for support. I know what it means for just one person to believe in you. Just one.

It isn’t about money, or paychecks or benefits. That isn’t why I work at the VA. I’m not saying the VA is perfect – I can tell you a long list of bad experiences, horrible flaws, ugly days. It doesn’t even have to be the VA – I can tell you about horrible people and experiences in private medicine! Expensive medicine with bitchy, mouthy, hateful people working there.

I’m far from perfect – but I try to give every patient one thing…a smile and a kind word. That may be the only thing I have to offer in a day. Maybe something to laugh about. A moment of respect, a moment of understanding or just a squeeze to their hand to let them know that I care. Every place that serves customers is built on one thing and one thing only – the people that work there. You can have the most beautiful facilities, the best equipment and state of the art systems – but if the people spend their days sucking on sour pickles…it doesn’t mean anything. People will forget what you did and what you say – but they will never, ever forget how you make them feel.

I have had some really terrific success stories drawing blood. I know, clerking and drawing blood doesn’t sound like much – but it is where the rubber meets the road. A link in the chain for how people “feel” about the time they spend here. I told one gentleman, who served in Vietnam, that I felt that he was a “hero.” Three months later he came back with a beautiful letter for me. It said that no one had ever called him that, no one had ever thanked him for his service like that. He was driving one day and it just hit him and he bawled so hard he had to pull off the road. We stood in the clinic hall crying our eyes out. I have that letter and I will never, ever part with it.

Let’s face it – the one thing that all of us have in common, as MST Survivors, is the way the perpetrators made us feel. The way the military made us feel – like we are worthless, nothing, that we are the crazy ones! They all made us feel like we were dirt…rags…something to be used and kicked aside. Then – they told us we were crazy, we were nuts! I was diagnosed by a civilian shrink as a “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits.” Talk about nuts. Cluster B traits essentially mean that you are a “drama queen” and that everything revolves around you. Like I was paranoid and accusing others of things that didn’t happen.

You know what is funny – “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits” has many of the EXACT SAME SYMPTOMS of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Paranoia…check, worried that people are going to hurt you…check. It is partially defined as: extreme “black and white” thinking, instability in relationships, self-image, identity and behavior often leading to self-harm and impulsivity.

In other words – he was saying…”you know, you are bringing a lot of this on yourself.”

What did the VA therapist, psychiatrist and comp and pen people say about it…because I asked my therapist outright!!! She said – no, Joan…you are not borderline personality disorder with cluster B…you are a classic PTSD. Although it took me a really long time to describe myself as having PTSD.

That was quite the moment – I must say. The moment when I realized that it isn’t my fault. That I didn’t “ask for it” or “bring it on myself.” The moment that I realized that I was “normal” – as normal as anyone else that survived this shit. They were the screwed up ones. I’m okay – they are pieces of shit!

Wow – I hope the staff interviewing me doesn’t see this 🙂 Might be the end of the job interview :-)!!

Actually – I’m not afraid of them seeing any of what I have ever written. I care. I care about the Vets I serve. I care about making things in the world right. I may not be able to do much…but I can make it right for the few people I see in a day. Please keep me in your warm thoughts!

Peace,
Joan

A Poor Definition

December 28, 2012

Hello, Friends.

I have found myself recently in several locations where I have to attempt to define “military sexual trauma.”  The official VA definition according to US Code is below:

It is “psychological trauma, which in the judgment of a VA mental health professional, resulted from a physical assault of a sexual nature, battery of a sexual nature, or sexual harassment which occurred while the Veteran was serving on active duty or active duty for training.” Sexual harassment is further defined as “repeated, unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature which is threatening in character.”

Wow – talk about a mouth full!  Believe it or not – I was actually my unit’s EO person when I left the unit.  I know…the EO Rep being the one who was victimized is pretty crazy…to say the least.

When I taught EO and Sexual Harrassment I tried to do it in a way that was fun and interesting.  No dry, boring slides for me!!  I believed that if there was an interesting dynamic – that there would be more willingness to listen.  I always started with a inappropriate joke – one that would upset the men and one that would upset the women.  Then we would discuss why they were “offended.”

There are really two types of sexual harrassment:  Quid pro Quo and Hostile Environment. 

Quid pro Quo is literally – this for that.  I see a whole lot of this in the military – and sometimes, because the victim “gained something in return” they don’t really feel that they were assaulted.  Sometimes it is sexual conduct in exchange for better duty, rank or things of a similar nature.  Sometimes it is sexual conduct just to survive!  Servicemembers pressured into sexual contact just so that they can live a normal life.  In some ways I refer to this as the “protective rapist.”  Because you “belong” to someone in the unit – usually of higher rank – you are no longer a target for guys looking for a hookup.  You are off limits.  However, being in an inappropriate relationship isn’t necessarily “rape.”  After all, we control our sexuality by our own choice. 

Hostile Environment is a different matter.  This is when the area that you are working in is completely and totally offensive to you for either your gender or your unwillingness to engage in sexual behavior.  This can be anything from the nude catalog on the wall in the platoon room (yes, males can experience this too – maybe they are offended by a group of women with naked men hanging in the workplace!)  Hostility towards your rank or your position and deliberate attacks on your or your job.  Poor NCOERs when you have done nothing to earn a poor rating.

Perhaps it is easiest to define what sexual harrassment/MST isn’t.  First of all – this is very individually specific at times.  So let’s look at one example.

You are out on a smoke break at the picnic table with members of your platoon.  One of the NCO’s starts telling a dirty joke.  You sit and listen and then complain because you were offended.  Is this sexual harrassment?

No – it’s not.  You could have gotten up and left.  There was nothing holding you there.  It may be an example of “hostile environment” if it reflects the deeper culture of the unit – but sometimes a joke is just a joke.

Let’s look at the same situation in another environment – like a platoon formation.  Now you are bound to stay and listen to the dirty joke.  You cannot leave.  This is that hostile environment that reflects the unit’s culture – if leadership believes it is acceptable to share offensive material to a captive audience.

That isn’t necessarily a male/female thing either.  It can be a religious preference of the person.  Their personally held beliefs cause them to find it offensive.

I have come to believe in the “comfort factor.”  If you are having “creeped out feelings” then you are probably heading into a bad situation.  Don’t be afraid to chronicle the things that are going on.  You will probably never find “justice” from the military – but those supporting documents will give you a leg up with proving your claim at the VA.

Don’t be afraid to speak out, either.  Even in uniform.  Not all leaders are pigs.  For the purpose of this post – I will say not all men are pigs.  Talk to them, quietly and out of the range of others.  They may not even realize they have been offensive! 

I had a similiar situation when I was EO.  Both the female subordinate and the male leader were friends of mine.  The male leader was actually a pretty good guy – he used to make jokes every now and again that he kept me around for “Hot coffee and clean tent floors.”  I was never offended by those jokes because it was a “private” joke – not spoken in front of strangers – and his behavior toward me never indicated that he saw me as less of a soldier than a man.  Well – I will be danged if he didn’t make the same joke to my female friend who had just gotten transferred into the platoon and it seriously offended her.  Of course it would – it was just bad timing and she had never really worked with him.

He truly wanted to make it right.  He apologized profusely to both her and her spouse who was also in the unit.  He explained that it was really meant to be funny and that he was really, really sorry.  It worked itself out.

Was that a “hostile environment?”  I think it was – from her point of view.  But it was not on purpose – it was just a careless word that was later regretted. 

I was so proud of her for stepping forward and making an issue of it.  She set her boundaries – that was good!  Luckily – this leader was a good one – and saw the mistake he had made and took responsibility.  They worked together fine after that.

Unfortunately – not every story ends like that.  It is really too bad.  Of course, this post has nothing to do with rape, but I hope it helps some readers better understand the problems.

More to come!

Joan

Back in Business

December 10, 2012

Hello, Friends.

I have been away from the blog for a while.  I had a total abdominal hysterectomy and a hernia repair last month.  Surgery went excellent – but I had a surgeon that I know and trust.  I spent three days in the hospital and that was good.  Private room – lots of pain meds!

I have been back at work for the last three weeks – more or less.  The first two weeks I didn’t make it the whole week, so last week was my first full week back.  I’m sore and tired…but I’m not whining!  This will all be worth it in the end!!!

Like many Survivors – I have struggled with pelvic pain on and off for years.  The last three years have been the roughest with the last 6 months being the worst of all.  I am hoping that this surgery solves the problems.

It is the gift that keeps on giving…being a Surivor of The Invisible War.  It affects us mentally and physically in ways that I don’t even think the medical community truly understands.

In the past I have given recommendations to people going in for their Comp and Pen appointments – things like…wear an all cotton (no metal) sports bra and a pair of gym shorts so you don’t have to remove them for x-ray.  With that thought in mind – I will give a few suggestions for hospital visits.

I spent three days in the hospital – we all know how triggering that can be.  You aren’t really very conscious because of all the drugs and you seem to wake up to strangers over your bed all the time.  I was lucky that I was able to request some accomodations without giving the reason why.

I asked to bring my own pillow and the hospital was fine with that!  In fact, I had my pillow when I went to surgery and when I woke up…It was wonderfully comforting.  Ask about a pre-op cocktail.  More and more the anesthesia folks are willing to comply.  I took a stuffed animal with me as well. 

Find out in advance how your surgery will take place.  If you are outpatient – they take you from same day surgery to the OR to the recovery.  Because I was an inpatient I got to check into my own hospital room and then I really “woke up” right back there.  It was comforting.

Besides those comfort items I brought new pajamas and my own fluffy bathrobe.  Of course, I couldn’t use them until I was disconnected from the IV and the Urinary Catheter – but once disconnected it felt so good to shower and put on my own things.  I used the new pajamas as a “treat myself” shopping trip.  Who doesn’t like something new!  I read on a website to be sure to buy white cotton underwear at least three sizes too big.  That was great advice for an abdominal surgery!!!  They didn’t rub against the incision…in fact – I have a pair on today!  So much more comfortable.

Don’t forget to take lip balm.  Your lips are awfully dry after surgery.  I splurged and bought the lip smakers in Dr. Pepper and Root Beer.  They were a lot more “yummy” than plain old chapstick.

Take an opportunity to request a regular nurse when you are admitted.  Most of the nurses work the same days – so if you ask they will usually be willing to assign you the same nurse.  That was awesome!  I had the same three nurses all the time – and the same CNA’s.  You have a chance to get to know them a little better and then you can feel more comfortable.

Don’t ever hesistate to make your needs known!  This is sooo hard for us as survivors.  You don’t have to be specific as to WHY you are asking for something.  Just say – In order to be more comfortable I need…I have met a few cruel nurses in my day – but not as many as one might think.  Having worked on inpatient wards I know that happy patients don’t push their call buttons!  Call buttons that aren’t pushed means that I have time to do what I have to do – that I am not running around like crazy.

I had great nurses!  In fact, I didn’t push my call button even once in three days. 

So – I am healing.  I have been surprised by some of the strange feelings and emotions I have had.  The last thing I would ever want is a baby – mine are nearly grown!  I was surprised by a sudden sadness that I wouldn’t be able to have a child again.  I had to see my VA Psychiatrist and have some medication changes made – but those have been working out fine.  I have experienced a sense of anger that – once again – I am having to pay for what was done to me.  This is my fifth abdominal surgery – my abdomen is starting to look a little bit like a topographical map! 

Anyway – I am back on line.  Many blessings for all of you.

Peace,

Joan

Assumptions

November 5, 2012

Hi All,

I wanted to share what happened last Friday. I called the main VA in Iowa City, to set up my follow-up appointment. The woman who answered the phone had absolutely no personality, and acted like she was very irritated she had to answer her phone. Tip one for this lady, if you don’t like answering the phone to schedule appointments, get another job. Duh!

Anyway, she proceeded in the gruff tone, this is the conversation we had:

VA: NAME?

Me: B****

VA: What’s his last 4?

Me: 1234

VA: Oh this isn’t working, was that V as in Vern, or D as in Dog?

Me: B as in BOY

VA: What’s his first name?

Me: (I gave my first name, which could be considered androgynous)

VA: His middle name?

Me: CATHERINE

VA: Oh

Might I state there is no way anyone could ever guess I was a man on the phone, I most definately have a high-pitched, woman’s voice. She never went on to say she was sorry or anything, just seemed even more irritated that I was a woman. I did make the appointment, but did this whole thing just piss me off. I texted Joan and told her, she wasn’t too happy either. I didn’t read in the rule book, or the guides I got from the VA that ALL VETS ARE MEN. I swear, I put up with enough of that crap while I was in, I sure don’t need it now. And I am not all that thrilled to be going to the VA to begin with. I told my co-workers about her, and they were kind of pissed off too. I said with her personality, she was more like a grouchy old nun teaching school 30+ years ago.

Never assume anything. I am going to lodge a complaint when I have my next appt, maybe get her some sensitivity training or another job. I have figured out there are only a few times EVER that anyone is safe to assume the sex of the person the appointment is for. Setting up an OBGYN appointment, or a prostrate exam. Other than that, and you are at risk for making an ass out of yourself, which is what happens when we assume.

Change can’t come fast enough,

Brigid

O Canada

October 28, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I was supposed to take my 14 month ol granddaughter on a little mini 3 day vacation. But, as my bad luck always seems to have it, she was sick, and so was her mom. I decided to take her anyway, so her mom could rest, and I could give my little Kiki all the TLC she could handle. My daughter warned me to be careful, since I get sick rather easily since the blood clots last year. So I had a sick, sleepless baby for 3 days, and wouldn’t you know it, of course I got sick. I missed 2 days of work, and drifted in and out of consciousness on the couch.

During one of my brief moments of wakefulness, I was flipping channels and came across an episode of 48 Hours Mysteries. The title of this particular episode was “Name, Rank and Serial Killer.” Needless to say, I woke right up, and watched the program. This story was about Col. Russell Williams, a top military commander in the Canadian Royal Air Force, and serial killer. It was 2 years ago when he was sentenced to 2 life in prison terms for the sexual assault and first degree murders of Corporal Marie-France Comeau, a 37-year-old military flight attendant, and Jessica Lloyd, 27, and 82 counts of breaking and entering.

This story had me so disgusted, I can’t even begin to tell you. But he would break into people’s homes, and steal ALL of the woman’s undergarments. He also would steal the undergarments of the young females of the house as well. But while he was there, he would put on their undergarments, and take pictures of himself, and masturbate. Of course, he eventually moved on to rape and murder.

But what impressed me the most of this whole story was what the Canadian Government, and Air Force did. They stripped him of all his rank, medals and awards. Then 4 officers ceremoniously burned all of is uniforms and gear. They also suspended his severance pay. Can I get a GO CANADA? If you are interested, here is the link to the story: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7362254n

Why can’t our military and government follow Canada’s example? I firmly believe if we started actually punishing these predators in the military, and punish them severely, there would be a heck of a lot less rapes and assaults against their fellow soldiers.

Still Praying for Change,

Brigid

A Moment of Clarity

October 10, 2012

Hello, Friends.

As you know – if you are a regular reader – I have been running my ass off promoting the film The Invisible War.  I have been talking to every person I can think of, scheduling showings and talking to old white men in my VSO.  That isn’t to put down the VSO members, because they care, they are a terrific group (most of them.)  Primarily…they are just confused.  Most of them are too old to have served with women in the capacity that they are serving in the last 20 years.  The women they knew were nurses and clerks – many of them went their entire military stint and never worked with a woman.  I think that some of them just believe that a woman should never be treated badly – so they can’t figure out how it happens.  Whatever the reason – it gets to be a tough row to hoe.

This weekend I spoke about the film and a gentleman stopped me and thanked me for what I had said.  He explained that his ex-wife is a veteran and that she was raped.  He was glad to see people talking about the problem.  I told him how sorry I was and I asked him if she needed help, filing a claim or getting therapy. 

He told me – “She’s dead.”  I told him how sorry I was and he stepped in and volunteered – “She killed herself over it.  Fought with the VA for years and she just couldn’t do it anymore.”

That’s why we do this.  That’s why we put ourselves out there even as we try to maintain our privacy.  That’s why this film is important.  No more, no more rape, no more abuse, no more violence and no more dead brothers and sisters!

I told the guys at the meeting this last night and for the first time they seemed to start to “get it.”  One of the guys started in about how, when he was contracting in OIF/OEF/OND, he noticed that 20 percent were women.  He got kind of excited and talked about a woman who pulled her LT from a bombed vehicle and carried him away from danger.  Then he said something very, very interesting.  It was really a moment of clarity – “Of course, they aren’t just women…they are Marines!” 

I know he didn’t see it this way – but it is the point that many of us have been trying to make.  I wasn’t a “woman soldier” or a “female soldier”…I was just a soldier.  I’m not a “female” veteran – I’m just a veteran – just like every other veteran. 

I know it won’t solve all of the problems – but maybe if we can stop some of the gender bashing – we can start seeing one another as “Servicemembers.”

May God rest her soul and the souls of all of the others who gave in to the pain before seeing a change.  Even though she stopped the fight – her life can still resonate for change.

Peace,

Joan

Really Inconvenient Truths!

September 25, 2012

Hello Friends,

I am so glad to see that Jay’s blog is up and running!   His words are so wise and so true and I wanted to expound on comments that I made there. 

In his latest post Jay talked about this difficulty that we Survivors encounter in the VA and the VBA.  How hard it is to open up to a service officer about what we have endured – how, too many times, we are treated like we did something wrong.

I believe that we make them uncomfortable…very uncomfortable.  You see, we are an in their face reality check!  In their heads they can make up any little fantasy world they desire.  They can say things like, he/she probably asked for it or it was just a false accusation.  Then they have to look at the evidence – the destroyed lives, the damaged bodies, the ruined careers (ours…of course…not the perpetrators!)  Now their little world is shattered – and they have to look at the facts.  The facts are, some soldiers rape…they harrass…they abuse their power and they get away with it.  When they get away with it – they WILL do it again.

We are the really inconvenient truth!  (A thousand pardons to Michael Moore for stealing his movie title)

People want to have these ideas about good soldiers who serve with honor and with courage.  They want these pictures in their heads about band of brothers and idealistic bull shit like that.  Yes – there are soldiers like that!  There are people in the military who will always try to make the right choice no matter what it costs them.  They are good people.  Unfortunately, there are really ugly people out there!

Ugly people, horrible people.   They rape for the power and for control.  If they were civilians they would still be rapists.  They would still be the power and control freak boss that you can’t stand to be around.  The military culture just allows them to go as far as they would like to go.

This weekend I had an opportunity to do some special  duty with some guys in my VSO.  We enjoy one another’s company and we enjoy flipping one another shit.  In fact – it is one of the things that we do best!!

I left that day laughing so hard I nearly wet myself.  I serve with some really terrific guys!  I’m that “annoying little sister” they all have to put up with…so to speak.  It creates that warm, fun and enjoyable feeling of brothers  and that was why I loved the Army.  I was still laughing when I drove home.

Then I started to cry.  I cried for everything that I had lost.  For everything that was taken from me.  There was a time when sitting around with my Army buddies flipping one another shit was the best part of any day.  I felt warm, I felt protected, I felt like I was part of a family.  Then I was “shunned” and everything was gone.  The “family” turned their backs on me.

People will ask, “how long does it take to get over this?”  This isn’t something that goes away.  You don’t expect an amputees arm or leg to grow back, do you?  No!  It is an injury, it is chronic and they learn to live with it…but they won’t wake up one morning and discover it is “All Better” and they have two good legs.  PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injuries) are the exact same way.  You don’t wake up one morning and all of the problems are gone.

In physical therapy an amputee can learn to live with his/her leg.  They can learn to live without an arm – how to tie shoelaces with one hand.  In Mental Health Therapy we can learn to live with PTSI – we can learn to get up in the morning, brush our little teeth and move out the door.  We can learn to deal with the nightmares, the flashbacks, the fear, the paranoia and the pain – but we can only tie that “shoelace” with half of ourselves – because the rest of ourselves was damaged or destroyed in that Invisible War we are Veterans of.  No one questions that in Combat PTSI – but they sure want us to get over the sexual assaults and harassment!  I don’t get that!

That is why we are a really inconvenient truth – we have been changed for life – we have been wounded for life.  We aren’t going to “get over it” and “move on.”  Sure – just like an amputee we can lead regular lives – but we will never just “get over it.”  That is what makes them uncomfortable.  You see – if we just “get over it” they can just forget about it.  That is what they want to do.  If we are in their faces – they can’t forget about us – and then they have to deal with us! 

And that – my friends – is a really inconvenient truth!

Peace

Joan

Hatred in the name of G-d

September 17, 2012

Hello, Friends,

I have been delinquent in posting this week.  I had a VSO meeting on Tuesday and that can take an ugly turn some days.  Most of the time, I enjoy hanging with those guys.  I’m the only female and my husband is also in the Post and they have come to accept me as their little sister.  Unfortunately – we still have our share of mysogonistic sons of bitches!  Tuesday night one was in rare form.

Believe it or not – the man is a preacher.  Only he knows the will of G-d and only he knows how G-d feels about things.  He knows exactly who G-d loves and who G-d hates.  I’m not sure what version of the Bible he uses, but he pulls out scriptures interpretation that I know is not in there!!  He even defended the Westboro Baptist Church group for protesting Veteran funerals in the name of hate.  So, as he is sitting there talking about all of the things that G-d “expressly forbids” I am held captive to his hateful ramblings because I have to lock up the building.

“G-d expressly forbids any woman being placed in a position of authority over a man!”  He preached on.  Really?  Really?  Holy crap I grew up with some of this type of crap and by the time he reaches that point of his “sermon” I have just about had it.  Every fiber of my being wanted to point out the women in the Bible that have been authority over men – but I keep my mouth shut.  This is the same person that viewed my Command as illegitimate…just because I have ovary and boobs – and brought a few of his like minded buddies along for the ride.

He railed against women, he railed against homosexuals, he railed against Muslims and he railed against bikers.  He railed against the young troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan who are experiencing mental health issues – “They must have been wrong in the head before – why should the American Tax-Payer take care of them!”  He is very non-prejudicial – cause he hates everyone who isn’t an old white guy who thinks like him.  Every sour, hateful, venomous remark was punctuated with the words, “G-d says!”

Hatred in the name of G-d is one thing that I cannot stomach.  If you want to hate someone then be man enough to hate them outright – don’t bring G-d into your deluded little fantasy!  Don’t justify your hatred by painting it with G-d!  Most of the readers here know that I am a practicing Catholic, I attend Mass on Sunday and I serve in the Church community.  I was raised a “church hopper” by a Southern Baptist mother (who still believes I am going to hell for becoming a Catholic.)  I know my Bible and I know how men like him justify their hatred.

I also know that there are many more Biblical passage about love, forgiveness, respect and caring for your neighbor than there are passages that tell us to “hate.”  In fact – there are NO Bible passages that tell us it is okay to “Hate” another person.  I also know that no matter what we have done, what we are doing or what we will do can separate us from the love of G-d…because he loves us that much.

This man’s attitude, and the attitude of so many others just like him, is what justifies the predator.  You may think I am making a leap here – but I promise you I am not.  He exerts his power and his control with his title of “preacher.”  We saw it in my own church in the sexual abuse of young children by those dirty, sick bastard priests that dared to touch a child!  (My Church…but thankfully not in my Parish.)  I have known excellent Priests who bring credit to their position – just as I have seen excellent soldiers (officers and NCO) who bring great credit to their positions.  I have also known the one’s who use their position of authority to execute the most devious, self-serving and sick fucking actions on the lives of other people.  They exercise their hatred and call it “G-d.” 

I wonder what their judgement day will be like?  I would like to think that there is a special place in hell for those who would harm in the name of “G-d.”  Even then I don’t want to think about what they may have to suffer – because I have seen and lived through so much suffering and sorrow that I don’t want ANYONE to suffer – not even my attackers or my acusers.  

In some ways I feel that I could justify a desire to see them suffer – hell…I could probably justify being the one to light the fire on some of them!  But that would be hatred in the name of G-d…and we have way too much of that going on these days.  I think I would rather choose love – and forgiveness – if not for them then for myself. 

Peace,

Joan