Saturday, November 14, 2015

Every Breath You Take Part 2

Every move you make
Every breath you take
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you.-Sting (C) 1983 A&M Records Ltd

If you haven't read part 1 of the story of Monisha Rios and her struggles in the military, you might want to check that out. THE INVISIBLE WARRIOR REPORT: Every Breath You Take Part 1 
Supposedly we want to encourage bright and eager young people to Be all that they can be--- Remember that's what the Army slogan use to say. But now returning to civilian life, Monisha still walked that perceived slut walk that most women do, when they don't cooperate or when they become whistle-blowers against the system.

I'm reminded of a single line from the movie: The Invisible Warrior, when a female Veteran (Kori
Kori Cioca Battling for Vets Benefits
Cioca) exclaims in astonishment: "What The F**k is going on with the VA?"
Broken people look for safe harbors to reach. They, like any of us who have escaped the undertow of darkness, gasp for air and the chance to breath and find life. Monisha Rios, a young veteran was seeking to rebuild her life and to heal from the trauma and nightmares.

She was denied at first, the most basic services, which took more time.  She had an honorable discharge, and the Veteran's Administration argued that she came up short of the standard 24 month eligibility. The VA told her she was not a victim and not entitled to those services. At the time she didn't feel empowered to fight for her rights so Monisha took the bad news and moved on. Her mind and body told her "something is wrong with me." But the VA told her she did not have any real problems. So she was pushed out of the boat of help that was supposed to be granted to all Veterans who come marching home.

Every Vow They Make

Imagine if you had an infliction attacking you, but no one believed you? You feel it, and you know its real, but you're told: "Nope, nothing wrong with you." And so you go untreated for years. Time did not erase the shock and terror associated with her sexual assaults while in the army. In fact the depression, anxiety, overwhelming fear, and nightmares were a regular thing. The biggest challenge came to Monisha when she finally qualified for VA care while in college working on her degree in social work.

"My entrance into mental health services was terrifying. One day, I walked into the Women’s Clinic and whispered to the check-in clerk that I was afraid of myself. I’d never felt that way before. The therapist on call came to talk to me and together we discovered I was not actually going to self-harm, but could probably use some therapy. Sadly, they didn’t ask more than the “were you raped on active duty” question and I was put into groups with men. Needless to say, I didn’t go to those. They prescribed sleeping pills and pain pills that made me so tired I flunked a semester. After about 5 sessions with a female therapist, she was transferred to another facility. That was it for me for a while. I continued receiving physical health care and did my best to manage the other stuff on my own."

Neither the VA nor the Women's Health Services helped to pinpoint the reason for what Monisha was dealing with. In her Masters program for social work, she eventually got to the heart of the problem. It was like pulling back the prickly leaves of an artichoke to get to it. Someone threw her a lifeline six years later in a study on PTSD. While reading the material, Monisha discovered that what she was experiencing was real. It validated everything that had happened to her right down to the verbal abuse, harassment, intimidation, and threats. Plus she now knew that she should have been eligible for help without serving for 24 months. She had missed out on getting help from 1998 to 2010. (I wouldn't have wanted to be the person who gave her the bum steer at that point.)

Every Game They Play

Maybe a combination of anger and the will to live kept her going on, not only just to find the truth for
herself, but also how to get help for others as well. Fear will always try to push you back down with depression and anxiety, guilt and shame. No doubt, Miss Rios continued to battle those demons in her lone hours, as well as dealing with the people who marginalized her problem and in some cases, turned a blind eye to the continued harassment she would face in the VA hospital setting.
After graduating from college, Monisha had a new job as a licensed eligible clinical social worker in West Virginia, and had a better sense of what mental health services were all about. She married her high school crush who was also a Veteran, and became an instant step-mom. Now in a new state and with her family, the uphill battle continued as she walked the maze of the local VA hospital, filled with the day-mares of apathetic staff and others. After contacting the MST coordinator, no one called her back for over 12 months. During that time she and her family had their fortunes reversed and they lost their home, which put them on the homeless list.

When she and her then-husband moved in to the homeless program at that VA, they had to do so as single Vets because at that time there were no couples facilities available. In reality the couples facilities were being used for storage purposes at this particular West Virginia VA homeless program. The married couples were definitely not on their high priority. The couple were told; "you're not allowed to kiss, hold hands, and definitely no sex because it's not  fair to the single Veterans."  The campus police acting on a tip confronted the Veteran married couple in the chapel area. "We were told you came in here to have sex together!" Obviously they were not, They were simply enjoying some private time together and trying to heal as a family unit. This just added to the harassment from other male Vets and made life for them bad. As they walked through the facilities together, other men leered at her and told Rios's husband to keep her close. He was not allowed to protect her, or retaliate against the unwanted harassment or advances made.  Male eyes would be peering through the cracks in doors and windows just to catch a glimpse of her and other female residence in the women's section.

Every Step They Take

Experiencing more threats and retaliation, Rios was re-living her old boot camp experiences again. One of the
Even going to the VA you can be a target for unwanted attention
other male vets in the same program would send her little notes, and cards which elevated to stalking and harassment. Of course what else can a victim do when living in this "Hear, See, and Speak No Evil Land?" She gather recorded evidence that this sly guy was sexually harassing her and other female vets. Staff members ignored her at first. But finally she and her husband made their case; this patient was given a warning that the harassment and stalking needed to stop and also he was not to talk to any of the female veterans. Monisha's victory would be slightly short because as she was sitting in a quiet place eating alone, the outraged Vet came in with cane in hand to confront her. This was deja vu all over again from Tech school and the biting airman. (See Part One) The only thing that snapped him out of it was another female Vet who witness the scene and promised to report him. At that point he seemed to turn heel and retreat. Visibly more afraid and shaken by the crazed threats Monisha, went to her room and, reported it to the staff who in return alerted the VA police. Fortunately he was removed from the campus and not allowed to come back. After the removal of this patient, things calmed down for her and her husband; and Monisha was able to advocate for better conditions while raising awareness of the staff, and even receiving an apology for her treatment there.

When moving to Delaware and continuing her MST treatments, Miss Rios would find herself again struggling just to maneuver from a waiting area to various stations in the VA hospital with harassers in hot pursuit.  It took a long time to her first appointment at this new VA, but on the first day she was again subjected to unwanted attention by another Vet. While sitting in the waiting area with wedding ring on, she was hit on again by a man who wouldn't take no for a answer.

 "Unfortunately the VA is where a lot of this stuff happens. Unless you're going to the Women's clinic which is sequestered for women, then you're a sitting duck. I was waiting to meet with the Psychiatrist (which I did not want to meet with anyway) and this male veteran came and sat next to me and started talking. (Which is no big deal.) And then eventually started asking for my phone number--- telling me I looked just like his therapist who he had a crush on--- and started to go in an inappropriate direction--- 'oh I like you, you seem like such a nice person--- I want to get to know you--- can we go out?'--- Even though I was wearing a wedding ring and even though I said no thank you--- I'm not interested, I'm married--- (being the nice person I am, and not wanting to tell this guy off.) The door faced the psychiatrist office so he, the male veteran) knew where I was going.  And while I was in there, I told the psychiatrist--- 'this just happened in the waiting room--- I'm not comfortable going back out by myself. Could you call someone to escort me?' and she said 'Oh I'll make a note of it in your clinical notes.'
The psychologist appeared detached and very automated in her responses. Who knows if this was a buffering device she used to stay above what was happening, or a "I could care less what's going on" attitude, to just cope with their surroundings. Monisha was taken aback by the cool attitude.
"I’m also a mental health professional. So I know how this was supposed to go. She was supposed to do her part to keep me safe. This man is standing right outside her door.  And her response was to put it into my clinical notes? Wrong answer. She should have addressed it with him directly, using crisis prevention and intervention skills. If he escalated, she should have called on other staff, and in the worst case, the VA police to assist.”
Apparently according to Rios, this was another "head in the sand" situation in the system. Fortunately, her next stop was at the Women's section of the clinic where she could escape this "don't take no for an answer" individual. As soon as that appointment was over, he was on her trail again; out to the parking lot. Fortunately, a VA employee did intervene, as he overheard Monisha protesting to the male Vet to leave her alone. Tactfully, the employee moved in between both of them and disarmed the situation. Sadly she spent many appointments trying to avoid this one individual by walking in the opposite direction or jumping into an elevator. I wonder why security doesn't review it's policies on people (ex-GI or not) who just loiter the grounds and harass others? Before a MST/PTSD victim can make it from the parking lot to their first appointment, they are often subjected to over staring, cat-calls, whistles, inappropriate comments, and gestures, possibly even being groped or worse. A place that they come to for help and treatment, turns into a place where re-victimization is almost a sure bet.  Suffering is exacerbated. New trauma symptoms develop. Their families and relationships are often the ignored casualties. Sadly, like is true with many veteran families, Monisha’s marriage did not survive the series of extreme, undue hardships - many of which were preventable by practicing good ethics in providing care.

People like Monisha Rios and Ruth Moore, a sexual assault victim turned advocate, are speaking out on behalf of Veterans who have been sexually assaulted, discarded by the military, and denied even their most basic benefits, aside from the help they need with their ongoing battle with PTSD.

Ruth Moore: Battling For Benefits Click link for story

Monisha Rios: MST, PTS, and Human Rights Advocate
Monisha Rios has accomplished so much to help other people in the battle against re-victimization, Sexual Assault, and harassment that not only happens to women in the military, but to men, as well as the Gay and Transgender Community. The important thing to remember that the Invisible War doesn't just begin and end when you leave the military, but is pervasive in the systems that have gone unchecked.
She continues as a speaker and advocate for Veterans who are battling the Veteran Affairs system, and has been invited to speak out of on talk shows including Project Censored: Sex Crimes in the VA.

Thank you, Monisha for both interviews. I'm proud to know you. Happy Veterans Day to all my fellow Vets, and Invisible Warriors.  I know we've got a long ways to go, but each story you bring makes a difference.

It's On Us

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Every Breath You Take Part 1

Every move you make
Every breath you take
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you.-Sting (C) 1983 A&M Records Ltd

This 1980's pop classic by The Police was considered an off beat love song with undertones of a guy who always had a woman on his mind. Maybe flattering for the times. but now it's evolved into something of a stalker anthem for a new generation. And while it great and even cool to remember the song, and make jokes about it's meaning, to live a life where you're forced to be on guard because of those who believe they have the right to have access to you in the military, college or the work place can shake you to your very core as a person.

Oh Can't You See, You Belong To Me...

In 1997 Monisha Rios was 17 years old when she took a military entry exam. Most of her life she had been told that her learning skills were sub-par compared to others, and that, in itself, affected her confidence and even self-esteem. She was very surprised to realize how well she did on the exam and began to receive calls from all the branches. It might have been the beginning of open doors in academia for her, but she also went through the maze of sexual harassment, and sexual assaults in the military and fighting for personal justice, as well as advocating for those who were being assaulted and marginalized by the military and VA.

Army Private Monisha Rios 1997
Monisha chose to enlist in the Army, partly because the Army had been a family tradition for some years back; plus the idea to join the military was very humanitarian. But of course being a minor, she had to do some serious persuading with her mom that this was a good thing. During her senior year, Monisha was in the delayed entry program, and worked hard at becoming physically fit for boot camp. Ironically no recruiter told her the truth about the sexual harassment maze she'd go through, which started even before she made it to boot camp.

"We had to share a hotel room. ( females in same room, and males in different rooms) We said good bye to our families--- It was like a movie like "Porky's" almost acting like complete idiots except this was real life--- young guys walking in and out of rooms. They would come and sit on my bed--- try to touch me while I was trying to sleep." She would push back. "Hey we're shipping out tomorrow--- like they actually believed that going into the Army meant they were going to get laid or something." Recalling her experience, "That was pretty scary that first night."  -Monisha Rios

briefed on the military's brand of training for sexual assault 
After getting on the bus and reaching their destination to Fort Jackson SC, the female recruits were briefed on the military's brand of training for sexual assault by putting the responsibility on the female recruits.  "We were trained not to smile, bat our eyes, cross our legs, don't laugh or look feminine. Don't do anything that will attract attention to you. We were literally codified by the female drill sergeants, who would make us do push ups if we crossed our legs." Apparently the military's belief was if a recruit didn't act like a woman, then it would deter unwanted attention from male recruits. Amazing that the military can give a soldier any command but not, "don't touch another female or male soldier."

Every Single Day, Every Word You Say...

In this integrated platoon although sleeping quarters were separated, both male and female soldiers
total harassment disguised as military conditioning
were encouraged to have limited but helpful interaction with each other. That standard seemed to be a moving target in Monisha's case with a male drill sergeant from another platoon. This drill instructor DS observed Private Rios showing another fellow private how to fill out a laundry slip in the corridor. Apparently the DS saw Rios as some sort of Delilah to this guy's Samson, or Esmeralda who was trying to charm and bewitch other male. She was made to remain in the corridor and lie on her back with her legs spread eagle much to her personal humiliation. While the male recruit was subjected to the typical drop to the ground and give me twenty or thirty with him yelling "what's wrong with you soldier? That female will just get you in trouble." While yelling the most misogynistic slurs at the young female recruit "You're nothing but a whore!--- you're mother was a prostitute!--- and you're in the Army to be a prostitute like your mother!!! and other things while laying in a sexual position. This specific drill sergeant seemed to enjoy harassing Rios and other women in the most sick and demeaning ways to let them know in his opinion women didn't belong in the Army. This was just just one instance. I know the military will play mind games with boot camp recruits to condition them in being soldiers, and it's not pleasant, but generally done to help them to think like soldiers. But in my opinion, this was total harassment disguised as military conditioning. The harassment continued in other places; in the chow hall where the Drill Sergeant sitting in Monisha's direct line of sight would remark, "Oh you know what you really want in your mouth..."  Do you have to guess what things like that does for someone's appetite?

Every Game You Play, Every Night You Stay

After enduring boot camp hell for 11 weeks, Private Rios then moved to technical training at Keesler
Kessler AFB and Technical School
AFB, where the harassment seemed to turn to stalking when a male D.S. came into the female latrine while she was in the shower, standing on the other side of the thin curtain. Fortunately he was gone soon after that because of another unrelated incident.
Later at that same base a male Airman who Monisha considered to be something of a friend began making her feel uncomfortable. His talk went from casual things to sharing his rape fantasies. He told her how women really like it rough, and inspite of her refusal to hear anymore, he followed up the talk with attacking her from behind and leaving a set of painful teeth imprints in her arm, much to her shock. 
"He bit me so hard that each tooth mark left a dark purplish blue bruise. They were darker than the rest of the bruises. He threatened to hurt me if “I got him in trouble”. Not a single person in that room did anything." -Monisha Rios
left shaken and afraid for her own safety
Of course feeling the intimidation from the large Airman, she decided to remain quiet and try to let the whole thing pass. But it wasn't to be so because one of her own platoon members saw the bite from the kink artist and insisted that she report him. Monisha then pointed her assailant out to her DS. Whatever punishment he received from the incident, this arm biting perp wasn't happy.  He planned his retaliation on her. With another male friend in tow, he wades into her formation yelling sort of foul obscenities at Rios without a thought. Fortunately her female Drill Sergeant apprehended him and his buddy, while members of Monisha's own platoon hustled her to safety. Shortly after, the bully was kicked off the base and maybe the military for good. But needless to say, this close call left the recruit shaken and afraid for her own safety.  

The Air Force doctor who was already treating her for other injuries attended to the bite on her arm. One day he began counseling her on perhaps separating from the Army to avoid arm bites or something much worse.

The overwhelming fear and terror outweighed my desire
 "He told me things would not get any easier for me; that I would most likely be assaulted in worse ways; that rape was in my future. On one hand, he could recommend I be placed on permanent profile, which would limit my MOS options, but not the likelihood of being raped. Or, he could recommend a separation based on my injuries, and significantly reduce my chances of being raped while serving my country. While I deliberated over the next few weeks, I thought of how terrified I felt, how depressed I’d become, how I’d washed out of classes, how unsafe and unprotected I really was in this environment. I thought of what might happen to me if I stayed in. I hadn’t even been in for a year and I did not want to return home as a failure for not handling Army life as a woman. I still struggle with that (internalized oppression). The overwhelming fear and terror outweighed my desire for an army career." 
-Monisha Rios
Apparently at some point Monisha Rios began to realize that she was in an institution that had little
regard (if any) for women who wanted to serve. She was becoming broken psychologically with every breath she takes, and every move she makes.  The military institution she thought she was joining had become her enemy because she was the wrong gender. Next time her team mates may not be around to help her to avoid the inevitable. What a thing to have playing in your head both night and day.

Every Claim You Stake, I'll Be Watching

If she had second thoughts about getting out of the Army, they were squelched during her out-processing at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, where she endured more sexualized psychological and physical oppression at the hands of a female captain who was one of the boys. Monisha recounts that it was like basic training all over again; this time with a woman leading the hatred brigade. It was like Boot Camp Hell The Sequel.

Monisha Rios Today
After standing up for herself she was retaliated against. Another hard lesson to learn was that other women in the military would throw her under the pay-back bus. A female Platoon Sergeant had to follow through on a cooked up  false accusation (by would-be rapists Monisha stood up to) and took  her aside to tell her she knew it was a lie. The Platoon Sergeant remarked to her that "it’s what you get for standing up for myself against the boys club" And of course this PS wasn't going to stick her neck out for Monisha and be retaliated against herself.
When her day to be discharged came there must have been relief mixed with a sense of failure to complete her commitment to the service. She thinks about it quite often as she fights to advocate for those who are also struggling with trauma brought on by sexual harassment and sexual assaults. This fight would take her to the step of another institution. The Veterans Administration.  Her story continues in 2 weeks.

Special thanks to: Monisha Rios for taking the time to make this interview possible. Looking forward to working with you again in the near future.

Ms Rios is an Adjunct Graduate Professor from Lesley University a Graduate School of Social Sciences Division of Expressive Therapies, “Expressive Therapies and Social Action in Communities”, Cambridge, M.A., January 2014
Independent Veteran Advocate and Consultant, National, October 2012 to Present

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Nothings Gonna Change

Fiona Apple- Across The Universe

As I watched Fiona Apple's video: Across The Universe, the Beatles lyrics woven into a creative display of rioting, looting and destruction, my mind went to a place of fear, helplessness, and confusion. I think about the ceaseless ongoing attacks against humanity. The cafe seems to be a metaphor for our society with people running wild in a frenzy of senseless violence and chaos. This was a clever artistic message. We see the destruction in one concentrated area. We're left with the aftermath of broken things and property. Many of us are outraged that vandals have the right, it seems, to converge on a beautiful piece of real estate and out of sheer madness, break and smash it, and run away without any remorse or contrition.
Maybe the Fiona Apple/ Beatlesque is a lamentation of sorts, that "nothing's going to change my world." 
For decades rape, sexual assault, and military sexual trauma has been a stain on the shiny armor of our armed forces. We've denied it; attempted to sweep it under the rug; we've tried to quiet the victims with retaliation, and expel them from service.
Then when victim survivors wouldn't go quietly and began telling their stories. our military leaders promised "Zero Tolerance" of sexual assault as early as the 1990's.

Like Endless Rain

US Navy Lieutenant Paula Coughlin 
In 1991 Paula Coughlin, a very exceptionally bright and capable  US Navy Lieutenant, remembers the nightmarish account of being sexually assaulted by a group of drunken aviators. As she stepped off the elevator onto the third floor of the Las Vegas Hilton and attempted to get to her room, she found herself being forced through a gauntlet of sexual assault. As she tried to make her way down the hallway, about a hundred drunken officers tore at her clothes, grabbing her breasts and buttocks. She was knocked to the floor, and kicking, punching and biting, she managed to make it to safety.  She was one of 83 women and 7 men who were attack that weekend.

At the time it was considered to be the worse case of sexual harassment in the Navy's history. So-
called "officers and gentlemen" were part of a situation at the Las Vegas convention that elevated from a PR nightmare for the Navy, to a full blown media scandal. Later Paula reported the situation to her boss who replied, "That's what you get when you go down the hallway full of drunk aviators." The Navy's attempt to label the situation as "misbehavior" caused  Paula to declare "enough!"  She turned to the media, demanding that her attackers be brought to justice. Her appearances on National TV made her something of a celebrity to the female officers, but a trouble-maker whistle-blower to her male counterparts.

When I came forward, I was constantly attacked in the media and in any venue you could think of. Anything I’d ever done in my life was used to impeach me and make me look like a lying slut. The American public and the media now understand rape is a real problem in the military. There is a tremendous level of understanding when a person comes forward as a victim. -Paula Coughlin
After a tell-all investigation was conducted, and 90 victims were discovered, and 140 officers were involved, no one was prosecuted. But Barbara Pope, refused to accept the results of the first investigation, especially after Rear Admiral Williams made sexist remarks that he believed that "a lot of female Navy pilots we're topless dancers or hookers." The final investigation lead to Williams resignation for failure to lead a thorough investigation. Soon afterwards Paula left the Navy.

Aberdeen Proving Grounds
In 1996 The Aberdeen Proving Grounds Scandal was the largest of it's time. Rumors began circulating of a secret society within the ranks in which male DIs would target and sexually exploit female trainees at this installation.  Accounts of sexual misconduct, intimidation, conspiracy to conceal the wide-spread criminal enterprise and rape shocked even experienced investigators. Staff Sergeant Delmar Simpson seem to be the the brains behind the plot. Simpson had a knack for assessing females and determining and exploiting their shortcomings in order to obtain sexual favors.
"Aberdeen Proving Grounds is a location where Non-Commissioned Officers were assaulting and raping trainees, and passing the name of the person they had assaulted to another NCO" - US Army Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy
 Staff Sergeant Delmar Simpson 
 A particular trainee might be deficient in her academic studies or in her abilities during Army Physical Training (PT), or the trainee might have a child back home. This fact was used by some of the DIs and they would deny a female trainee access to phones or leave to visit children during breaks in training.
Investigations also uncovered that male instructors at other basic training installations were phoning Simpson and others to give them “scouting reports” on the female talent soon to arrive at Aberdeen.
Of course the brass at the Pentagon denounced the scandal as being "unacceptable" and they had "Zero Tolerance" for such behavior. All in all, 3 men at Aberdeen, Captain Derrick Robertson and Sgts. Delmar Simpson and Nathaniel Beech were accused of participating. The heaviest punishment was brought against Simpson. He was found guilty of 18 counts of  sexual assault plus 29 other offenses and sentenced to 25 years in military prison.

L-R Jessica Brakey, Sharon Fullilove, 

Kira Mountjoy-Pepka, and Beth Davis
In 2003 an email made its way to the Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff, plus congressmen and the media. It alleged that there was a significant sexual assault problem at the prestigious Air Force Academy. And that complaints of the assaults were falling on deaf ears of the academy's leaders. An investigation ensued, and the findings were that "of 659 women enrolled at the Academy at the time, 70 percent of the women at the academy alleged they had been the victims of sexual harassment, of which 22 percent said they experienced "pressure for sexual favors.  -The New York Times. 28 August 2003. Retrieved 28 March 2005

US Air Force Academy
According to several sources, little had been done to correct the problem. Although it seemed that those who were disciplined were defined as scapegoats. Which included a new commander who was forced to retire only 2 months after the scandal broke out. The alleged attackers had since graduated from the academy and there was not sufficient evidence for a court marshal.

LaVena L. Johnson
 PFC LaVena Johnson was a bright and cheerful young woman who proudly enlisted in the Army. The last conversation her parents had with her was July 17, 2005.
"Looks like I'm going to be home for Christmas. Don't decorate the tree, until I get home." Two days later at 7:30 in the morning, the door bell rang. It was an official messenger from Army HQ.
"He stepped into our foyer and said 'This morning Lavena L. Johnson died of self-inflicted wounds.' I was overwhelmed. I fell back on the steps--- Linda started bellowing so loud--- it was a horrible echo--- it was so loud." -John Johnson
John turned to the messenger, and questioned, "Are you saying my daughter's death was a suicide?"  The messenger answered that the incident was still under investigation. The Johnsons retrieving their daughter's body from the airport, felt the irony of seeing Lavena in a pine box draped with the American flag. Linda Johnson recalls "---the last time I was here, she's running with open arms--- 'Hey Mom!' ---and this time she's in a box!" After a full report the Army ruled that she died of a self-inflicted wound. Immediately red flags went up for the Johnsons. A self-inflicted gun shot wound from an M-16 rifle? "Impossible!" they both said. "No way!" Further investigations would reveal LaVena's nose was broken, she had a dislocated shoulder, teeth were missing as though someone had brutally beaten her.

The worse of it all was her vaginal area was surgically removed. The pictures of the tragedy showed that LaVena was found in a contractors tent instead of her own quarters. And someone had tried to burn the tent down with her in it. This is tragically one of the greatest military scandal's and cover ups of any military soldier. It has been stamped "Case Closed" by the Army officials and remains a disgrace.

Only the best and the brightest are admitted to Marine Barracks in Washington DC. "The Best of The Best" was the Marine credo. And yet the tarp was yanked off a nest of sexual harassment, and rape that reached the media. What made this so shocking was Marine Barracks is just down the street from the Capitol Building. This Marine Barracks showcases the might and discipline of America's finest, handling everyone from the President, to dignitaries, plus security at the White House, and the splendor of the Silent Drill Team.

LT. Ellie Helmer
Being the "Best of The Best" apparently comes with plenty of ego, and the tenacity to believe that female officers are the object for sexual harassment and assault. Two cases of this outrageous behavior are showcased in the documentary, The Invisible War. Where on March 16, 2006, after The Silent Drill routine, and several rounds of drinks at the local pub, LT. Ellie Helmer had been coerced by her company commander to come to his office because he need to talk to Helmer about military related business. After reaching his office the commander attacked the female Marine, knocking her unconscious. When she came to and was wearing his underwear, she knew that she had been violated. After reporting the rape, NCIS could not find any evidence to substantiate her story. In return LT. Ellie Helmer was under investigation for public intoxication, and conduct unbecoming an officer. This was an obvious misogynistic cover up and smear campaign by the top brass again to silence another victim of sexual battery.

Marine Barracks is also known for it's drinking culture. Following another Silent Drill Team ceremony
Lt. Arianna Klay
in 2010, all Marines were ordered to "Happy Hour" after midnight which ended at 2 in the morning.  Lt. Arianna Klay was brutally attacked by a superior officer and his friend. The assailants threaten to kill her if she told anyone what happened.
"I think the thing that makes me the most angry was not even the rape in itself--- it's the commanders who were complicit in covering up everything that happened." -Arianna Klay
Although both assaults were reported, no one was ever convicted of these crimes.

 Images Of Broken Light 

Military sexual assaults have become a political football that has been kicked down the street with politicians attempting to give the appearance of making real changes but the needle of progress has barely moved on this issue. In fact it seems that victims have been reporting more in an attempt to prove they want justice to be done while the Pentagon grabs the Brass ring of Zero Tolerance, proclaiming their policies are working.   While even Claire McCaskill (D-MO) admits that rape and retaliation are "stubborn problems" her argument to avoid removing commanders from the decision to prosecute major crimes such as rape and murder remains in what she calls, "a lack of convincing evidence." And by removing the decision from commanders would remove their power to command their troops.
Ms McCaskill makes reference to Liz Holtzman and Mia Fernandez who both said they didn't see any facts to support Kirsten Gillibrand's MJIA Bill. This was amidst the swarm of sexual assaults, and testimonies from victims and advocates who all agreed the commanders were not vested in stopping sexual assaults in the military.

Pools of Sorrow

For the second time the Military Justice Improvement Act went down in defeat. While having enough traditional votes, they did not have the majority plus ten to avoid a filibuster. I fail to understand the harm or hurt it would do the military morale, to give victims the guaranteed right to justice without undue command influence. Is it military morale that is most important? Or is it commanders morale, and the fear that they will no longer be able to steer this issue into silence? I also wonder if those who believe in keeping commanders in charge of military sexual assault cases heard from witness like those who gave an account of a senior officer groping her and brushing up against her repeatedly.

Capt. Vicki Phipps 
"One of my senior ranking officers began brushing against me and touching me inappropriately I reported this to my commander, and he told me that I had two choices in this situation, he told me 'I can remove you for causes and end your career right now or you can find a way to deal with it.' The perpetrator was the officer that was responsible for the entire battalions training and mission readiness evaluations. was assaulted a total of three times and absolutely I do think the climate facilitated these crimes. I chose not to report them because I knew that if I reported at that point, my career was gone. I also witness what had happened to others in this unit reported sexual assaults. I saw several cases handled badly each victim was blamed; information about cases was not kept confidential and victims were branded as liars." 
-Vicki Phipps YouTube-Protect Our Defenders Published on May 29, 2015
The retired Captain tells of typical story of misogyny, sexual assault, and retaliation from the beginning to the end. She was assaulted at least 4 times. And in the damned if you report, and damned if you don't atmosphere, she and even others under her command, felt the slings and arrows of outrageous behavior from those who were in command. I wonder how those including Senator McCaskill seem to miss the fact that along with continue sexual assaults, even by Pentagon's tally, is now at 62 percent. Where is the good order? Where is the discipline commands tout loudly about?
Miranda Peterson, policy director of the military survivor advocate group Protect Our Defenders remarked about retaliation,

Miranda Peterson
"you would think that these numbers will be raising alarm and would result in effective action from military leaders but instead the Pentagon seems intent on downplaying the severity of this problem and discrediting victims. By labeling reports retaliation as perceptions are perceived retaliation the Pentagon is insinuating that victims are too sensitive to accurately interpret their own environment and that what's been reported as retaliation is actually exaggerated responses to harmless behavior, such as not being invited to parties or being unfriended on Facebook.
This approach shameful its offensive and it minimizes the extreme harassment and abuse that so many survivors are facing every day. --- Survivors frequently tell us that while the actual assault is devastating the betrayal a corrupt system and retaliation by both coworkers and commanders if even more traumatic." -Mranda Perterson YouTube-Protect Our Defenders Published on May 29, 2015

L-R US Rep Jackie Speier and Trina MacDonald
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand with Ginny Lee
So much has been debated; victims and advocates have trekked back and forth to Capitol Hill. They told their stories and to committees, while men and women still live in the shadow of this crippling issue. It seems that the needle to me has hardly moved. More victims will come, more rapes, ignored complaints and retaliations will continue, perhaps because Congress, and the military need to embrace the glory and pride of traditions at the cost of the men and women who have felt called to serve. Nothing is going to change for any of us, until the changes include the mindset of our leadership from the barracks and military bases to Capitol Hill on this issue.

Protect our Defenders
NY Times
The Invisible Warrior

Special Thanks To Miss Victoria Sanders 
Kirsten Gillibrand
Stay strong. We're not done yet.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

It's Not Easy

Kara Danvers Discover that it's not easy to be a heroin the upcoming premiere of Supergirl 2015 DC Comics 

It May Sound Absurd

The Song "It's Not Easy" is a homage to the legacy of Superman. I heard it last week, but as it echoed through my mind, I thought of real live people who heroically take on the dirty task of speaking out against crimes of humanity such as rape. One of the things I like about previewing the new "Supergirl" series is that having abilities doesn't always work for you. A hero, much like an advocate, might sit in their apartment and count the cost. They wonder if what they're doing makes sense. Sometimes the things that can cripple worst that radioactive rocks are words. A friend of mine who is a professional therapist, admonished me "don't let their words take up rent in your head."  I'm reminded that if someone can reshape your narrative, then they don't have to do anything else. 

  But Don't Be Naive

Growing up in the 60's was a time before comics were cool. They were for young boys who love to read stories of the improbable. I was hung up on superheroes like a lot of my generation. But it was taboo to read them anywhere but in your bedroom. And they were considered brain damaging foolishness. In silence, I thought about the idea of being able to fight for truth and justice. I loved stories of men and women who could help the powerless, protect the weak, and fight crime and evil.

An array of Superheroes came into our homes in the 50s-70s (L-R) Lynda Carter deflecting bullets as Wonder Woman
George Reeves had the honor of being the first to leap tall buildings as Superman with girl reporter Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane, while Adam West,
Yvonne Craig, and Burt Ward offered up comic book Camp as Batman Batgirl and Robin. 2015 DC Comics
Of course this was all pretend. Little boys tied towels around their necks making swishing sounds like from "The Adventures of Superman TV show." Or they pretended to be like Batman and Robin. My Mom was so sick of us jumping around yelling "Biff! Pow and Zowie!" But that was our entertainment. We pretended to be the good guys. But then of course other things took their place eventually. Besides, real life heroes were suppose to be cops, firemen, lawyers, and elected officials. They kept our town safe. We out grew of comics to the extent that you could not find anyone to admit they watched camp shows like Batman on television.

Comics and Superheroes are out of the proverbial closet now. It's big business, partially because the characters are a little more 3 dimensional, moody, dark, and the stories have almost a soap opera feel to them where the good guys don't always finish first. But as silly and corny as Superman, Batman, and even Wonder Woman was, I was always fascinated with their untouchable sense of valor and not backing down from that old sense of right and wrong.

Even Heroes Have the Right to Bleed

Advocates against domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse, are just ordinary people with an extraordinary sense of social determination to see injustice, stand up, and call it out. They could be doing anything with their lives rather than speak to a truth that should be as obvious as the sun rising and setting. Some are advocates because something horrific such as rape, was their experience. Others are perhaps because of something that happened to a loved one.
The Royal Military College Of Canada
I'm reminded by my own experience of being an advocate, That it's not easy to be me. But this isn't about me. Just recently I read several articles from our Canadian neighbors to the north. In an effort to change the mindset of the cadet's attending the Royal Military about the ever increasing tide of sexual assault and harassment which plagues the prestigious academy, Julie LaLonde, a professional educator, was asked to give a
presentation on the subject. This was a well planned presentation with power point images to give the young men and women food for thought.

Educator and Advocate Julie Lalonde
Little did Julie realize, she had walked into a den of misogyny, as her presentation was pelted with "Whistles, catcalls, and laughter, from young cadets who would were suppose to be the the brightest and best. Julie says that she absolutely believes that she was sexually harassed by the Military College of Canada.
"The thing's I heard at the Royal Military College of Canada scared me, to think that people had those attitudes about women, about sexual violence, about their role as bystanders-"  -CBC News May 22, 2015
 Now I only know Julie through Twitter, but it's my guess, this wasn't her first rodeo, and the toxic atmosphere must have been pretty bad to take her by surprise. To be fair, some cadets did give push back to the stupidity, but apparently it didn't do much good and the harassment continued, which must have felt like an eternity.  The dressed up RMC rowdies yelled things such as "women who drink too much enable their own rape." As long as I live I don't think I'll ever get use to that narrative.  I've seen that in print, but to get an earful of it must have been stifling. They continued to argue about the "consent factor."  Apparently some of them like their women fall down drunk. To some thinking; an intoxicated female should be fair game, thus making the "Yes" thing null and void. Somehow, their "Game of Thrones" mentality continued as they doubled down on the harassment.  "I might have paid attention to you if you weren't a woman and a civilian." one cadet said, as he gave Miss LaLonde a slow looking over. Shaken as any of us might have been but apparently still undaunted, LaLonde refused to let the behavior go unreported. You'd have to wonder why it took 5 months for the college's Brigadier General Meimzinger to convey an apology.
Much to her credit, Julie continues to speak out with her presentation, as well as side-step ignorant misogyny on Twitter. The crude remarks continue obviously as an attempt to take her out of the fight that many of us as advocates endure.

You Can All sleep Sound Tonight

Superman dispatches justice to a domestic violence crimnal
in Action Comics 1 June 1939
As a kid, I thumbed through comics of imaginary characters who could grab bad guys and toss them in jail. In fact, in the very first Superman story back in 1939, he dispatches a wife beater! That's a pretty mature subject matter for the times. Today the heroes are flesh and blood people, who give their voice to and leadership against, crimes such as rape, harassment, domestic violence. and child abuse.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
These are people like Victoria Sanders, Retired Col. Don Christensen, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Zerlinda Maxwell. Kate Weber, and others who won't quit. It's not easy to be and advocate like Rosie Palfy, Terri Youngs, Monisha Rios. Linor Arbragail or Julie LaLonde.

Their special powers are: forging new laws such as the Military Justice Improvement Act, teaching and reaching society with the truth about rape in film documentaries, such as "The Invisible War," and "The Hunting Ground," and Miss Brave World."  writing blogs and books, like  "Missoula" and "Silence No More," or maybe
giving their voices against rape and sexual assault on the Internet, as well as the media. These are
Amy Zering Kriby Dick and the cast of The Invisible War
just a short list of the people who are on the side of advocacy for victims and survivors.

So thank you Julie LaLonde and all of you who speak for others. I know that it's not easy. But hopefully you know that you are needed and appreciated by many out in society and
in neighboring counties like Canada. Stay strong!

Special Thanks To:
@Deja1422   @Veracrusin and @RosiePalfy for flaging down news items and your on going support


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scandal and a Few Good Women

VP questions an Ensign about an injury In Scandal episode "A Few Good Women"
Caution: This Blog contains spoilers 

Twitter was trending hot last Thursday about an upcoming episode of the ABC Show "Scandal." My
friends and fellow advocates were nudging me to tune in and check it out. I go through periods where I just don't watch TV because plots become too predictable or outlandish, or they ruin my love for a character, and then I just check out. "I'm done, finished, had enough." Skeptically, I tuned into the show because of 3 little words. "Military sexual assault." Once past the intro plot and opening credits they had me locked in. You see the fictional Madam Vice President was making a tour of the personnel on a Naval vessel the USS Montana. As she's making her way down the walkway of sailors, smiling and greeting them for the White House photo opt, she spies with her little eye, a female officer who has suspicious injuries.

Victim sitting at attention just within ear-shot of the conversation about her. 
The plot gets a little comical for a few minutes because the Lady Veep spirits the female officer away and then we're in the Oval Office where both the President Fitz Grant, and his sycophant yes-man Cyrus berate her even after she shares her suspicions of Officer Martin being raped by someone. We see the 1st Lieutenant sitting at attention just within ear-shot of the conversation. Her face was expressionless. You could only imagine she was thinking "What the hell am I doing here?" She's privy to the ranting and ravings of the 2 outraged men who yelled at the VP for her "Mama bear" move.  Susan Ross seems to know more about the issue than both of the these men who preen and strut the carpet.
Susan: --One in three women has been subjected to sexual assault. And if God forbid a servicewoman accuses a man of sexual assault and he's not found guilty, she get's prosecuted for filing a false report. You were in the navy, Did you know that?
 Fitz: I didn't. But what I do know is over two hundred years of historical precedent tell me that it is not our place to intervene in the Military Judicial system. 
Susan: She was raped and I know it isn't right!
 Both men hunched over and bug eyed tell Susan to "Put her back" with the comical under tones as though Susan had picked up a puppy out of someone's yard.
No doubt the nervous and scared Lieutenant wanted to get back to her duty station, and forget all the attention given to her. Perhaps in her mind (like many men and women in uniform,) they just want this to all go away. To talk about it to even well-meaning  people means to recall the nightmare again.

But undeterred the Lady Veep calls in reinforcements in the guise of  Olivia Pope and her crisis team who already have their hands full in another subplot.
Olivia Pope tells the JO that she will protect her and get justice for her
Olivia convinces the assault victim that they will do everything to keep her safe. She and her friend and ally Quinn, do a quick background check into both the victim and the perp. They find she (Lt Martin) has loved the Navy, and wanted to be a seaman since adolescence. and the alleged rapist is a four star admiral (John Hawley.) He and the Prez are pretty tight. Quinn reports: "He's celebrated, decorated,  Pretty much untouchable."

Not even the Press Secretary attempting a little girl talk over the hunks in Olivia's  life detours her team from taking this rapist down. Choking down her salad Abby says, "'re going to ruin my day---You're going to ruin the White House's day, aren't you?" As Olivia turns to leave she retorts, "Yes Abby, I am." It this point I'm amused and laughing to myself. The Washington big wigs and presidential staff is now about to play duck and cover.

When Olivia can't get any help from the powers that be, she holds a press conference with the USS Montana as a backdrop. That touches off a powder keg that has everyone from reporters to the First Lady asking what is the White House going to do about this.

Scandal 4x21 Fitz Does Not Want To Intervine
The First Lady wants to know if the White House is handling this. Click for video
First Lady: Please tell me we're handling this. We're handling this right?

Fitz: I thought you we're out campaigning.

First Lady: I was but then a story broke about a young naval officer who had been raped. And now the only thing that people want to ask me about is whether or not my husband is going to intervene on her behalf. Can I assume because we're not monsters, that the answer is yes?

Fitz: I can't intervene. It would send the wrong message.

First Lady: (Stunned) It would tell the world that we don't condone rape...

After her husband gives a half-hearted response, the First Lady turns on her heels and exits. If you're a supporter of our real life president, you'll be happy to know that this imaginary one doesn't resemble him in any way, shape, or form.

(Olivia Pope) Kerry Washington advocates for a military rape victim
At the inquest, the accused Admiral Hawley sits across the table stone faced and snarling at Olivia and her band of crusaders, calling her "a barnacle on the ass of every loser who cries boo-hoo," and denies being on board the ship the night of the attack. And their "Gee gosh golly" Jag Officer is about as appealing wilted lettuce. Obviously, Amy Martin, the victim, is scared as she is confined to the ship and given extra duties. Eventually, this rapist is brought to justice when some incriminating evidence is brought to surface, thanks to Olivia's friends and political aides who can't sit by any more. The story has some interesting twists and turns, plus a b-plot that I won't reveal for the sake of hardcore Scandal fans.
But hats in the air to Shondra Rhimes and her creative team for taking facts of military rape and sharing them with the viewers. It reveals how a serious crime like sexual assault can be covered up, and the many types who either ignore or take part in it.

This young Ensign Amy Martin is only imaginary, but she represents some real servicemen and servicewomen (past and present) who suffer in silence because of fear and shame especially if their assailant has rank or influence. Four Women came together in this scenario to get justice for a victim. They felt the outrage. It wasn't a complicated issue for them. The idea that our military and government should be so caviler about rape was well played out in the drama.  It show that justice for victims can be expressed through the idealistic forces that we bring about.
The TV Faces of Military Rape (L-R) CBS- NCIS Liz Holtan as Ensign Holly Farrell
NBC-Law and Order SUV: Shiri Appleby as Officer Amelia Albers and
ABC-Scandal: Emily Rios as Ensign Amy Martin

It is noteworthy while Hollywood seems to be getting in front of this issue with military sexual assault, hopefully the arts will deal with it from a man's perspective. There is so much to tell. But for now, this is a start. A very good start.

Scandal 2015 ABC Productions
You Tube Scandal 4x21 Fitz Does Not Want To Intervene "A Few Good Women"

Special thanks to: Barbara Jackson, and Twitter /Scandal Fans for the alert.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Can You See Me?

Clowns that only let you know
Where you let your senses go
Clowns all around you
It's a cross I need to bear


*Warning: Contents could contain information that is offensive, or display trigger images.

The Rock Group T.A.T.U sing a haunting song about a flesh and blood person living in a purgatory of beings who see right through her. Her pain doesn't matter; she is not important. We all have that pursuit of happiness thing that we want to go for as much as possible. It's fun to party, drink, and go a little wild when studies are done. Or Vacation time is here for that working stiff who has kept their nose to the grindstone.  Sad that some people see Spring Break as a time to lose your mind and do something stupid to a young woman. The worse part about this attack, it wasn't any he-said she-said situation. Cause there were witnesses... A lot of witnesses.

I received a story from a friend on Twitter last week that stopped me dead in my tracks. It froze the blood in my veins, and then shot it back to a boiling point. A young woman, who was passed out on a public beach in Florida, was the victim of a public gang rape. The most chilling part of the whole story wasn't just the rape itself, but the fact that onlookers just stared and watched the whole scene, as if they were extras in a porn shoot. Some said the onlookers seemed more concerned about spilling their drinks than what was going on. Many with cell phones out, were actually recording the rape, but no one intervened. 

All This Weeping In The Air

"What's wrong with people?" my friend texted back. That has to be the question of the year. To stand there and watch this as though it's some form of free entertainment by a bunch of clown-types sends our respect for another person's well-being to the basement.

 Suspects sought in alleged Florida spring break gang rape
By Standers look on in alleged Florida spring break gang rape Youtube

Aside from several perps being arrested who were involved in this animalist frenzy, the only spot of mercy was that the victim did not see the faces of the bystanders looking on. At the most needed moment of her life, she was no more important than a character on TV, or a reality show. The revulsion I have for people who rape is unchallenged, unless it's in the bystander who looks is so close to what's going on, but not compelled to act in any manner. I'm not talking about the person who fears and then turns away or cowers in fear of their own safety, but the people who look on, with recorders and cell phones in hand, recording a crime for their own amusement. 
Somehow this incident was discovered by the police because of a shooting incident that was unrelated. Troy police were quick to condemn this act as disgusting and cowardly.

Panama City, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen
"You need to wake up and see what's going on. This is what we see everyday. This is probably one of the most repulsive sickening things that I've seen on Panama City beach, and I've seen a lot of them.--- Within ten feet of where this is happening, there is hundreds of people standing there- watching, looking, seeing, hearing whats going on, and yet our culture, our society, and our young people, have gotten to the point where this is acceptable." 
April 12, 2015 CBS News

Clowns All Around You

So with drinks in one hand and cell phone in another, gawkers with painted clown faces looked at the spectacle without a shred of empathy in their hearts or a sense of outrage in their minds. They never thought "This could have been me, or my daughter, sister, or best friend." Or even that this was a crime and someone should try and stop it.  It makes me pause to wonder what people see as fun or amusing. I'm amazed with all the attention that colleges have been getting about campus rape, that the students in this crowd actually thought that drugging and raping a woman in broad daylight on a public beach was a good idea.

There are times when people question if a real rape culture exists. Apparently many people are so mentally soaked with porn images, they either don't know the difference between (so-called) art form and reality. Maybe their attitude is "celebrities make porn movies... what the hell???" Now if you don't like my little connection with porn or not, then that's on you. But my main point still is that this rape flick was produced without the victim's knowledge. If some sleaze gets a hold of it, it will be easier to nail an omelet to a tree! All it takes is to capture the hearts and minds of one emerging generation and you can conquer it. Gene Roddenberry's classic
A Young Village woman has been sexually
 assaulted in Star Trek: Return of The Archons
Star Trek series illustrates a world that was out of order by a computerized mind called Landru who absorbed the inhabitant's will so as to live orderly lives, turning them into a Stepford Society. The people become mindless puppets. The parents hide, while the young people run wild, pillage destroy and even sexually assault one another in public. I wonder if we are becoming too programed by our passions in this century. Healthy sexual expression is good, but against another person's will or permission is still rape.

So I'm addressing this issue of bystander indifference to give people some pause to think. Rape is still a crime. But it is being perpetrated in broad daylight on victims, while crowds look on as though they are part of a new adopted theology of life. I usually write articles about the failing institutions and the system that ignores the rape culture or enables it. But when bystanders standby and feel no obligation to at least get involved at some level, then "we the people" need to remember that without liberty and justice for one, there is liberty and justice for none.

This issue is dedicated to the "unknown victim survivor" of the Spring Break, Panama City situation, and to others like her.  In the future I hope we will see them.


CBS News

Star Trek
Return of The Archons 1978 Paramount Pictures

Clowns (Can You See Me?)
Copyright: Universal Music Publishing Int. Mgb Ltd

Special Thanks to 
Vera SantaClara for twitter alert to this story
Hang in there kid. 
And Friends and Advocates
Rosie Palfy
James W. Weirick