Friday, August 8, 2008

The Casualties of War: Rape

I accepted Military duty for two reasons: to insure I would be able, in the future, to visit my mother in the U.S., and to avoid being raped in prison.

Since my era, when most women in the armed forces were nurses and therefore officers, whom enlisted swine were not to think about, on penalty of violating The Military Code, much less touch, the integration of women in "non-combat" roles (Tell that to Major Tammy Duckworth, who ran for Congress without legs) has changed the interaction of male and female service members. I would feel more sympathy for military supervisors, who must struggle with protecting rights on both sides, while dealing with ambiguity and getting on with a very difficult task, except that rape is a matter of power, and they have the power, and are often the guilty parties.

Anecdotally, a friend is a victim of such circumstances. She is multi-lingual, forceful, and directed; she now finds it nearly impossible to leave her house, to drive is impossible, and using public transport is planning a mission, with plenty of prescription help. The Army (she's a reservist) and VA deny she's got any reason for PTSD, in part because the 24 hour battle she was in, with ammo running low, doesn't count 'cause she's a girl. Girls aren't supposed to be in combat, therefore it didn't happen.

I'm brought back to this shameful horror, not that it's ever very far away for me, because of a report in the Sacramento Bee (part of McClatchy; if this doesn't work, use the link to the right under "U S news source worth reading": ) for the testimony before the California legislature of a sailor for Veterans' rights. You will also find the story of the female "contractor" who was gang-raped by her co-workers, and kept in an eight foot metal box, until a sympathetic guard gave her a cell phone to call her father.

Whether I agree with their commitment to the military or not, these are dedicated and responsible people who have been brutally treated, denied, and cast aside to defend the indefensible. Clearly, the U S armed forces need a thorough housecleaning, which will not happen without the persistent, active investigation of such wrongs. This will be possible only with the active interest of the public.

With the oceans of horror this maladministration has brought us, we may want to allow ourselves to overlook one or another example; we cannot allow ourselves to overlook this one, for it is a part of a much deeper systemic evil: the denigration and suppression of women, the silencing of their voices. The U S military has failed, grossly and dishonorably, to address this evil; however, I think they may, if firm direction comes from the ultimate civilian authority. The military heard Truman say "Blacks are an equal part of the armed forces", and subsequent administrations continued it. It only takes a boss who says "Cut this shit out, and I mean it." for it to work.


Jane R said...

Oh, JohnieB. Yes. And thank you for speaking out about this. Did you see PJ's post on a related topic in the last week or so? It's here. It's happening all over, and getting covered up, too.

johnieb said...

This is one of the things that makes me angriest, but I couldn't avoid it any longer.

Jane R said...

Angry is good. Godde gets angry at injustice.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Thanks, my friend. Given your own experiences with the military, I particularly appreciate this coming from you.

I agree that anger is the only human response to this. But where to direct it?


johnieb said...

Thanks, friend.

The short answer is "politics". When there's a hearing before the legislature, as in CA, support those who called it and testify.

I think one reason women veterans have trouble getting PTSD diagnoses is the requirement to document specific stressors; I suspect the stereotype of being "a girl in the rear with the gear" creates a greater burden of proof for female vets.

And then there is the reluctance to deal with rape by one's comrades; the veteran in CA bleached the sheets in the shower immediately afterwards. The greater, and more telling reluctance is on the part of commanders and military culture. It's a very big and difficult problem; it's far easier to pretend it's not there except for a few bad apples. This, of course, parallels the culture from which the military derives.

pj said...

Just mentioning, the woman who was raped by her co-workers and held in the shipping container worked for Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. (So it's more the oil contracting business than the military.) But we all know who's in charge of that outfit, and we know ain't nuthin' gonna be done about it.

johnieb said...

Where was the report, PJ? I went back and didn't find it McClatchy, or some of my regular sources. Was it the NYT?

The Iraq War and this maladministration are subsidiaries of Halliburton.

June Butler said...

Johnieb, the amount of fixing and mending that will be necessary when the wrecking crew, who has turned to shit everything that they have touched, is daunting. It will take decades.

The woman worked for KBR. I read that, too, but I don't remember where.

Fran said...

Oh Johnieb - thank you, I do not even really know what else to say.

Lindy said...

Thanks for writing this JohnieB. You have the voice of experience and authority in military matters and that makes yours all the more credible and vital.

You are so beautiful that sometimes I just want to kiss you lightly on the cheek.