I am not going to try and spend a long time on this post. I do not want to. But I would appreciate it if you read it and read all the links. Very much.
A long-time acquaintance went through something last week I don’t care to describe here. She is dealing with it in an amazingly strong and clear-headed way. Her fiancee and friends are all there for her. The police investigation continues. Here’s hoping for the best.
Representative Jane Harman published this piece in the LA Times the other day. Read it. I will only quote this much:
The scope of the problem was brought into acute focus for me during a visit to the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare Center, where I met with female veterans and their doctors. My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41% of female veterans seen at the clinic say they were victims of sexual assault while in the military, and 29% report being raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and the downward spirals many of their lives have since taken.
Numbers reported by the Department of Defense show a sickening pattern. In 2006, 2,947 sexual assaults were reported — 73% more than in 2004. The DOD’s newest report, released this month, indicates that 2,688 reports were made in 2007, but a recent shift from calendar-year reporting to fiscal-year reporting makes comparisons with data from previous years much more difficult.
This report in The Nation…again, all I will quote:
Over the next month and a half, she says, she faced a series of hurdles. She would be discouraged from reporting the incident by several KBR employees, she says. She would be confused by the lack of any written medical protocol for sexual assault (as the only medical person on site, she treated herself with doxycycline). She would wander through a tangled maze of interviews with KBR and Army investigators about the incident without any clear explanation of her rights. She would be asked to sign several documents agreeing not to publicly discuss the incident, she says. She describes having her computer–which she saw as her lifeline, her main access to the outside world–confiscated by KBR staff as “evidence” within hours of receiving her first e-mail from a stateside lawyer she had reached out to for help.
And eventually she would find herself temporarily assigned to sleeping quarters between two Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officials, who, she says, assured her that it was for her own safety, since her alleged assailants were at the same camp for questioning; they roamed freely. When she wanted to move about the camp to get meals etc., she was escorted.
Smith felt very alone. But she was not.
You know, I’d like to first say that anyone out there who thinks I’m posting all this because I want to smear the troops or because I’m some sort of anti-American whiner or anything like that…any of you…are beneath my contempt. I’ve made clear — PLENTY clear — on this blog about my beliefs in the military not being staffed by some sort of mindless zombie stereotype, and having been raised in a military family, if you think I don’t have some sort of vested interest in fighting against that stereotype, you are completely, utterly clueless. Don’t even start. Don’t even try.
This isn’t a military problem, a political problem. It’s a human problem. It’s a gender problem. It’s a societal one. You’re all in it. You’re all part of it. And if you’re male, well, guess what, the burden’s pretty much on you. Deal.
But in those last two cases we are talking about exacerbations of those problems in certain contexts that happen to be of the now, of the moment. They happen to involve the military or, in The Nation story, security forces that have connections to the government and often involve ex-military folks. They are seen as representatives of a nation and society. They are expected to be held to a higher standard, even though, as I hope I would not have to note, the standard in this case would presumed to be higher than almost anything else to start with.
And…we get reports like the two I have linked. Reflections, as my first point makes too depressingly clear, of something that is a part of life to start with. A sick, sad, horrifying part of life.
What gets me even more is this — you know, set aside all those minor factors entering into all of this — emotional trauma, mental destruction, physical damage, misogyny, horrors upon horrors upon horrors. I mean, CLEARLY anyone doing this type of thing to someone else thinks they’re minor, why should we gainsay them their reasoned and balanced view of life? So yeah, set that aside, it must all rank down there with these people with, I don’t know, good manners.
I just also think to myself, “Hmm. Well that’s nice. Certain people in a combat zone, a depressingly large amount from the sound of it, who rely on their fellow citizens, their fellow soldiers and support staff and the like to make sure everything’s okay decide to reinforce that by wounding them and destroying their effectiveness to be able to function at the best possible level, causing an overall weakening. That’s really the sign of a member of an organization who seeks to make sure the organization functions at the best possible level given their current situation, and demonstrates their commitment to their duties and missions at hand. That’s really thoughtfully strategic of them.”
Sure is, isn’t it.
Don’t excuse any of this. Don’t explain it away. Don’t even try to justify it. And in the case of a military or serving in Iraq context, don’t rest until you can improve something rather than wishing it away or pretending that because someone wears a uniform that someone is automatically a perfect person. Don’t blind yourself, please.
And to those who perpetrate — here, there, anywhere — just this:
What is wrong with you? What is WRONG with you? And why don’t you even have a glimmering of recognizing it? And will you ever?