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

Thursday, March 19, 2015


What you want, 
Baby I got it
What you need

Do you know I got it?
All I'm askin'
Is for a little respect when you come home

Otis Redding

The song has been performed, parodied, quoted at the drop of a hat. It was made popular by R and B singer Aretha Franklin. In spite of the "dance floor" tune, Respect is a word that we're all familiar with. Perhaps we know the word but I wonder if we "really" know it. It should be the cornerstone of all relationships even on the most casual level. And yet it seems to be missing in the way we live and interact with each other privately and socially. There remains the question "do I earn it to get it?" Or the reverse.

All I'm Askin' Is For...

10 Hours of Walking in NYC As a Woman
Some people think that their station in life, gender, race, or even age, puts all of the cards in their hands when it comes to respect. But shouldn't there be a level of respect that comes with just being a person? Does a woman walking down a busy public street deserve to be called out to and harassed? Should she be grateful for leering eyes and snide comments coming from gawkers of all sizes, ages, and races? Should she be be ashamed for not allowing strangers into her space, that tell her to smile as though she's 10 years old? Shamers and victim blamers push back accusing "feminists of over reacting to something they see as harmless." Just good healthy free speech expressions. In their minds, (from their vantage point) no one is really being harmed. This type of MRA will always blame the problem on what is called "rape culture hysteria."  That phrase puts the problem on the shoulders of a hyper group of screeching feminists. And then when the problem continues to escalate from leering to remarks we continue to ignore the messenger. "It ain't rape!" they say. Stop being so negative. A mind set continues in the workplace, in colleges, the military, and other institutions. They scoff and say to move along. Nothing to see here. Some how without basic human respect, they try to hide or mask the problem by ignoring it. Hoping that the wounded and advocates will just quiet down and go away.

Sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and child abuse happens when someone crosses the line of decency, at the cost of another human being. They don't care that to violate another person means they cause deep harm to that person's mental and physical well-being.

Roosh Vörek
Roosh Vörek who goes by Roosh V is a Male Rights advocate guru of sort. He advocates in his blog that there needs to be a way for men to legally rape the woman or women of their choice by decriminalizing rape. His attitude seems to be that if a woman consumes either drugs or alcohol in public, then society should protect an man's rights if he wants to sexually assault her. “By attempting to teach men not to rape, what we have actually done is teach women not to care about being raped, not to protect themselves from easily preventable acts, and not to take responsibility for their actions.”
“I thought about this problem and am sure I have the solution: make rape legal if done on private property,” he continued. “I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds. 
Misogynist blogger: Make rape on private property legal- Raw Story-David Edwards February 13, 2015
Find Out What It Means To Me
Sadly Mr. Vörek thinks his contemplating this issue has lead him down the path to a great solution for men, and women. He devalues a woman's rights to drink socially, and dress the way she wants to. His solution is to allow men to rape promiscuous women, thus building better values into all women. I would laugh this off as ridiculous, except there are those who are drinking his crazy kool-aid.
He sees women as property, and not as human with the same inalienable rights.

Our first world country seems to be in a real shake-up because in some ways we are viewing this problem with no better attitudes than in third world countries. Our military has a better record for combating foreign enemies abroad, compared to its dismal record on sexual assault. Female troops have gone on record as saying they fear being raped by their comrades in battle more than the enemy in the theater. And to make matters worse both men and women have their experience in combat to back up their fears. Victims have remarked they had deep loyalty and respect for the fellow soldier, the uniform and the mission. After an attack the respect and trust is gone. When they took their issue to the chain of command, they are rebuffed, ridiculed, threatened, and sometimes raped again. If their was any respect for the institution before that, it's pretty much gone in many cases.

 USAF  Col. Don Christensen (R) prosecutes case of sexual assault of Kimberly Hanks (L)

In a killer of an article: The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault By NY Times. Robert Draper. November 26, 2014, we see how 2 people in the military fight for justice after being sexually assaulted. They are aided by a former prosecutor: USAF Col. Don Christensen can tell anyone about the level of disrespect a victim survivor receives in the military.  It's staggering, but not uncommon. If you remember the civilian Medical Technician Kimberly Hanks who was sexually assaulted in 2012 by Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. The guilty verdict was overturned by General Craig Franklin. The blaten and callous disregard of respect for the victim reverberated throughout Washington, DC.

In the same article, the Military doubles down on its' disrespect for rape victims when another survivor-victim came
USAF chose to respect perpetrator over Anonymous Survivor Kris 
forward, and named her attacker. Kris (anonymously) went from being one of the guys in her squadron, now an outcast she was ostracize as a trouble maker, while her attacker, Captain David Brooks received strong support, even visits from his commander while in jail.
In the year since the assault, Kris had fallen into a kind of limbo. While most of her fellow aviators had been moved up to new positions, she was overlooked. She eventually requested a lateral move to another department to get away from her difficult situation. “I was put on a shelf,” she said, adding that she has been socially isolated. “Since this happened, no one in the squadron invites me to do anything. And I don’t think I ever will be invited.”
The writer of the piece continues to quote Kris in this article: Her hurt was barely restrained as she continued in a jumble of thoughts: “They were my friends. We were family. It’s like parents with two kids — how do you choose? Both of these officers and no one's gentlemen are separated from the service. But evidence of the Good-Old-Boy's culture remains in this institution. The Pentagon has been dragging its feet on this issue since the Tailhook scandal erupted in the 1990's. Even with much of the reform passed into law, we still want to keep rapists in our institutions and dismiss survivors.

RESPECT... Take Care of TCB
Maybe the scariest part is when you're a survivor-victim of rape and the ones who are called to protect and serve you would rather do exactly the opposite. An 18-year-old girl living in our nation's capital was raped at the age of 11 in 2008. When she reported her attacks, Danielle Hicks-Best was arrested for filing a false report. The Metro police did it on the basis they believed that Danielle was lying and had consented to sex with several adult men. Inspite of the fact she was able to lead the police back to the scene of where the rape had taken place and there was evidence from the rape kit that Danielle had been assaulted.  The detective, William Weeks of the Youth Investigations Division believed the rapist story that Danielle said she was sixteen and would have sex with any man in the house. He was never arrested or charged with as much as statutory rape. But after several hours of interrogating, the victim in the same clothes she had been assaulted in, Weeks charged her for filing a false report because her story kept changing.
Although a rape kit once again showed that she had been sexually assaulted, Weeks went to the Office of the Attorney General and requested a custody order so he could charge her with making a false police report, which was granted. Weeks then marked the child sexual abuse case as “closed.” DC police admit botching 11-year-old girl’s rape case Raw Story Tom Boggioni March 3, 2015  
Figure this one out for yourself: A young girl gets raped and she's going to have a clear head about the facts? I would like to know first hand what made the detective in this case hand her over to be arrested? Unless there is new evidence to uncover, how this young girl who was 11 years at the time, could legally give consent, this is a total fail on the part of the police department and the people who handled her case. Where was the respect for this young girls rights? Hopefully as the Metro Police reopen this case, they can compensate Danielle in some way. Give her another shot at justice.

Respect is a mindset that we all need for each other. If the institutions feel they don't have respect from the public on an issue such as rape, you might want to ask why? As a young writer recently said in her article in the NY times:
Believing survivors is not just the right thing to do. It’s the best thing to do if we want to stop sexual violence. Wagatwe Wanjuki, New York Times December 12, 2014

Resources  Believing Victims Is the First Step

Special Thanks To My Twitter Friends
Deja 1422 
Rosie Palfy 
 Vera Santa Clara
James Warrick

For your leads, insight, and laughter!

 The Hunting Ground Trailer
Click Here for one of the most important films ever made

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The First Cut

"The first cut is the deepest
Baby, I know the first cut is the deepest
But when it comes to being lucky he's cursed
When it comes to loving me he's worst"

Cat Stevens

I recently hears Sheryl Crow sing this tune about the reality of personal pain. And although the lyrics are about the pain of betrayal from a man, the same might be said about giving your heart and trust to an institution, such as the military. A place that you've set your sights on since you were in high school like a university. You dedicate yourself and believe in the principals of discipline and work and honor. You embrace it like a sweetheart.

 All Of My Heart

You're a bright eager recruit stepping off the bus with your suitcase and walking through the gates of the military base. You're anxious but determined to be one of the best. It's all new. You're called a mama's boy, or a daddy's girl, and other names you couldn't repeat around the family meal.  But it's cool. All the screaming and cursing won't break you. It's all a head game. "Okay I bought into this so bring it!" You jump when you're told to, eat, crawl on your stomach, salute, stand, sit, and whatever. You're even use to the DI's threat's. In fact you know its all a head game. So you relax a little and reassure yourself "I'm going to do this, I'm going to become a soldier!" Until one day out of nowhere, your superior or supervisor corners you. He tells you what he want's. You've been conditioned to obey orders no matter what. Your military career will go over off a cliff if you don't submit. Afterwards you're told "Don't you breath a word of this! Or I'll send your ass back to civilian life in a heartbeat!" You keep quiet about the incident but all the time you feel the numbness, the confusion every time you see his face, "It could happen again" you think to yourself. Everything you thought that this institution had to offer has turned rotten. These are the feelings of many women and men who have been cut to the core by the military or other institutions.

But There's Someone Who's Torn It Apart

Stars And Stripes featured a story about how a sexual predator maneuvered his way through the ranks. He started out as a soldier with promise, but there were warning signs and red flags that Staff Sgt. Angel Sanchez was trouble from the beginning.

Staff Sgt. Angel Sanchez 
A first sergeant who wrote a recommendation letter in favor of Sanchez’s being selected as a drill sergeant candidate said Sanchez was the best non-commissioned officer “he had ever served alongside,” an investigator noted.
But once Sanchez was selected, junior-ranking soldiers wondered how long it would take before he would be accused of sexually harassing female trainees, according to investigation documents.- 
By Jesse Bogan St. Louis Post-Dispatch Published: January 15, 2015
Sanchez was also adept at finding his way around standards and policies, and avoiding detection from other eyes. He could pass the alarm system that separated male and female barracks on the base making his way into the women's barracks at night. Sexual assault and rape is devastating at any level, whether its peer on peer, or a subordinate attack. But the deeper cut comes when someone of higher rank who should have high integrity and trust, violates that honor. They treat a trainee as though they have the right to their very body and soul. When a ranking soldier or commander crosses that line from trust to betrayal, they have sold out the uniform they wear and everything it represents. Like many others, Sanchez totally discounted the ruin and devastation they leave in their path.
Retired Army Brigadier General Dr. Loree Sutton 

Dr. Loree Sutton a retired Army Brigadier General and Psychiatrist states the effects of the devastation like this:  "Its akin to what happens in a family with incest ---because in the military when we're functioning at our best, a cohesive unit, ---you know the band of brothers and sisters-- I mean we are family; when that bond of trust is violated, the wound penetrates to the most inner part of one's soul--- one's psyche." 

If you follow that reasoning, can you imagine the knife continuing to plunge into a life as he or she is denied by the very institution they are committed to. You relive the experience of the trauma day and night. It comes to you in your sleep, or stabs your thinking during lapse times in your daily routine, until to decide to tell your superiors. Their reactions range from calling you a liar who is trying ruin a good man's career, to someone with mental problem, Maybe a precondition you had before joining. You question yourself as well. "Why didn't I keep this to myself? Or Maybe I brought this on myself. It's all my fault!"  You become part of the problem because you dared speak out. And then finally you're considered unfit to serve. The destruction of thrust is complete. No one wants to help. You're met with retaliation or either harassment or silence as many before you were.

When It Comes To Loving Me He's Worst

Many Veterans with MST (Military Sexual Trauma) have said their biggest fear did not come from the enemy on the battle field but from the very comrades within the ranks.  Rebekah Havarilla testified before the The Military Personnel Subcommittee of The Senate Armed Services Committee:

"My deployment brought more than just the stress of occupational hazards. During my tour, one of my team leaders continuously sexually harassed me and was sexually abusive towards me. This behavior caused me so much anxiety that I ended up self-referring to mental health and on medication to manage not just the stress of my deployment, but also the stress of having to live with an abusive leader and co-worker. One week before my unit was scheduled to return back to the United States, I was raped by another service member that had worked with our team. Initially, I chose not to do a report of any kind because I had no faith in my chain of command as my first sergeant previously had sexual harassment accusations against him and the unit climate was extremely sexist and hostile in nature towards women. After disclosing my rape to a few close friends, I ended up filing a restricted report sixty days before I left active duty against both my rapist and my team leader, but had no intentions of ever doing a formal investigation."  And to add insult to injury a military Chaplin told Harvarilla that the rape was all God's will.  -Military Sexual Assault Victims Testify Before Congress ABC News March 13, 2013

Can you imagine living or working in the worse possible situation, with the very fear that you will be attacked at any time of the day or night, by a co-worker or your boss? Do you know what that does to your spirit, your inner drive as a person, that you are potential prey for someone else. And with the daily sexual harassment and mind games being played, you live in the pit of twisted fear and wondering if today will be the day. In the chilling aftermath of the events, no one will believe you, and even blame you for bringing it on yourself. It's as though the institution (military in this case) has given cart blanche to a crime which they refuse to acknowledge or stop.

While trolls attack this issue with crazed anger, contempt and victim blaming, the deepest cut comes from either higher ups in charge, who say things like "it looks like you had a rough roll in the hay..." -Terri's Story of Surviving Military Sexual Assault. Jan 10, 2012  or even family members who say to you just "stay quiet and get through boot camp---" Rape survivor Melissa Davis was given that same advice, because there was no one who would help her. She was caught between a rock and hard
Former Army Specialist Melissa Davis
place. There hard place was her own chain of command. And inside that chain of command was the man who raped her multiple times because he was her first sergeant. She didn't dare speak out because of the threats to her and her husbands careers, because terror was the way to keep victims in check in the military. Young women and men who have gone into a system that is suppose to hold up true ideals of what it means to be an American, have been brutally disappointed by a system that refuses to advocate for justice when their lives are interrupted. Just maybe if the system wasn't so broken and vile, maybe you wouldn't need advocates like me to speak out on behalf of the invisible warriors.

After Melissa's husband died in an auto accident, she left the Army. Melissa went from victim, to survivor, to advocate. She finally spoke out through her writings in a book "Silenced No More." Her Pen name was Stormie Dunn.  The book tells the story of her own sexual assault, as well as two other victims. The book gave Melissa the courage to tell what happened to her and why it is not good to just keep silent.  In 2014 she along with other advocates testified before a federal advisory committee conducting an independent review of the systems for handling cases of adult sexual assault in the military.
Melissa was also a strong advocate Kirsten Gillibrand's MJIA bill, removing the chain of command as the convening authority in prosecuting cases.

In Memory

Melissa "Missy" Davis passed away on January 31, 2015 (just last month), while recuperating from stomach surgery. She fought a good fight in the advocacy for victims of military sexual trauma. She will be sorely missed by her family and friends, as well as other advocates.

Melissa Ann "Missy" Davis Advocate Friend and Warrior
Passed away January 31, 2015
Thank you Melissa for your heart, and courage, to say what more of us should be saying. We love you and will miss you dearly."
This Author
Protect Our Defenders
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St. Louis Post Dispatch

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sad Lisa

She hangs her head and cries on my shirt.
She must be hurt very badly.
Tell me what's making you sadly, Li?
Open your door, don't hide in the dark.
You're lost in the dark, you can trust me.
'Cause you know that's how it must be.

What's Making You Sadly

The haunting melody of this song tells the pain of a broken young woman who carries the burden and shame of some traumatic event in her life. Her friend in the lyrics can't reach her through the pain and wall of silence. Maybe she is a witness of some unspeakable crime, or victim herself who can't speak or imagine that her life will be brighter, and her future has no hope in it. We live in a world of young men and women who have been sexually assaulted, harassed, and shamed into silence. The rapist is a thief who robs a Lisa of her spirit, and everything innocent she was born with. Therefore many rape victims walk in the shadows of fear and brokenness, while their silence gives power to criminal rapists to remain free.
I would imagine what makes Lisas or Larrys (if you will) so sad is when the betrayal comes from a trusted friend or family member. In a recent article in the Boulder Gazette, a young female Air Force cadet called her assailant, her "wing man." Meaning he was a trusted friend. Perhaps he was an ally, maybe a confidant. She felt comfortable enough to go out with him. He proclaimed himself as her protector during a night of party crashing.
"The female cadet burst into tears after learning she had been raped, the affidavit said. Nurses also noted that the woman referred to Ryerson as her "wing man." -Boulder arrest affidavit details alleged sex assault by Air Force Academy cadet The Gazette January 21, 2015
It's sad and frustrating to see that justice for the individual is not important to those who beat a patriotic drum. Or when a crime like rape is committed, law enforcement feels that the victim is not worthy of all the resources available to them. Rape is not a game for the victim, he or she doesn't report to gain popularity or to make a statement. Normally someone who has been violated doesn't want to come forward and report. They'd rather hide and suffer in silence. Victims are trapped between a damned if you report, and damned if you don't society.   Many times they confide in a friend or loved one who tells them to forget it and let time heal, or an advocate who tells them they owe it to themselves and other victims to speak out.

You're Lost In The Dark

Fortunately this case fell into the hands of a progressive Boulder Colorado justice system which quickly claimed jurisdiction over the case. I dare say if this rape had been reported to the chain of command this victim would have been subjected to victim blaming retaliation, ridicule, and even the disposing of evidence, making it a "he said, she said" issue. Will the system believe them or won't they? Too many victims have watched someone come forward to report a rape, only to be revictimized; who would walk into that den of hungry lions expecting anything different from the system?
I'm amazed that a country like America, seems to be turning more inward on this subject. We seem to be side-stepping the issue, or becoming more apologetic. We'd rather deny there is a problem in our military and college campuses. But denial doesn't make the issue go away anymore than it did during Tailhook.

Rep. Rick Brattin tries to revive
Legitimate Rape issue
Rape cripples the individual in ways that perps, shamers, and deniers can't understand. Rick Brattin is on a crusade to revive the "Legitimate Rape" issue which cost Todd Akin his Senate seat. Brattin seems to be defending his efforts for the sake of would-be fathers, which would include perps who have committed this heinous crime. If this bill becomes law, a woman might have to get written consent from the man if she wants an abortion. “It took two to come together and create a child, and right now the way it is, the woman gets the full say and the father gets no say, and I think that that needs to change,” Brattin said. “With the women’s movement for equal rights, well it’s swung so far we have now taken away the man’s right and the say in their child’s life.” He added, “It’s a child’s life that’s taken. The woman’s life is not altered.” Think Progress Lawmaker Defends ‘Legitimate Rape’ Bill
In the context of his remarks, someone who says "the woman's life is not altered," need a course in gender dynamics or a body switch! The statement is ignorant and unnerving.  Plus this lawmaker proposes to put the fate of a woman in the life of a person who may have been her attacker, just to win a pro-life argument? Some Lawmakers are using the gender rights issue to work off their own pet peeves and ride their own hobby horse, while not considering the cost to the individual or even society. And so through the eyes of the victim, he or she sees political leaders and lawmakers and those in authority as part of the problem.

She Must Be Hurt Very Badly
It is the historical issue of humanity that has become an epidemic. If you're too cowardly to face it
or choose to with warped humor or logic, it will still affect you or someone that you know.

Photo by Mary F Calvert shows the
the aftermath of some survivors of
sexual assault
As I read the article from a journalist on the issue Surviving Rape in the Military, I see a few more people are just realizing the affects that rape has on the human spirit. The apologist and haters accuse feminist of having an agenda against men. But this is not a gender issue. Individuals tell their stories from where they are coming from.

But Ms. Calvert, a photojournalist who documents gender-based human rights issues often in the developing world, could not let the story go. “Even though I’ve taught a workshop for military photographers for 17 years,” she said, “I had no idea that this was happening in my backyard. The numbers blew me away.”  Surviving Rape in the Military By Evelyn Nieves Dec. 17, 2014

She Walks Alone From Wall To Wall
A picture is worth a thousand words they say. So if you go into the life of a survivor, the smell and taste of life is different. Deep down inside many critics and shamers of this issue know it as well. But they quickly hide behind politics, or online troll rhetoric, or even political media clap trap. It's safer
 than to speak out and say rape is wrong. A few of these faces I know. They are courageous and productive people. They're contributors in battling rape and sexual assault. But many do it with the chains and weights of MST around them. Nothing is simple for them. They feel the rape was their fault. And of course there are those in our society who tell them if they were raped, they (the victim) are using the incident to gain attention. Many call this rape culture, a real culture victim status.

Kirsten Gillibrand speaks on a panel along with others on this issue of what happens when society and or the institution fails the victim of rape.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand with Tricia Bent-Goodley
"No one would say that rape is a coveted status. It's a horrific experience that can be devastating, that is life altering, and that we must do something about. ---And what we form, time and time again from survivors all across the country--- these are horrible, horrible things that happen to them. Often you hear, 'I could have survived the rape' but what I couldn't survive, was the college that I love--- the institution I was devoted to, turned their back on me. ---Not only told me I was lying, but blamed me and retaliated against me. That is the heartbreak that survivors don't overcome."

Oddly after the Penn State Scandal in 2012, we haven't learned our lesson about institutional cover-ups. When anything from child molestation to sexual assault is revealed, many react with denial. Whether its the NFL, Universities, the Church, or the Military, instinctively we want to embrace the glory, and symbolism, and never question its leadership. What is worse, we hope time will make the problem go away if we stop talking about it. In the military:

The latest annual study on military sexual assault from the Department of Defense (DOD) shows that reports of such assault rose 8 percent since 2013.  Perhaps even more striking, however, is that the incidence of retribution against those who report sex crimes is a stunning 62 percent. That means service members who came forward with allegations experienced social, professional or administrative retaliation. MS Magazine Blog December 4, 2014
The top military brass no doubt see this as a positive report. Their spin has been that victims are now coming forward and reporting, because they have more confidence in the system. But the institution continues to call for us to honor the uniform while violating a soldier basic right without retaliation.

Kirsten Gillibrand in an another attempt to bring the Military Justice Improvement Act before congress for another vote stated:
"The DOD for twenty years has failed on this issue now. And the scandal's of the last 12 months, and the latest data shows that they still don't get it." Quoting USA Today 'Over the decades, sexual scandals have spurred cycles of Pentagon apologies, Congressional hand-wringing, half-baked attempts at action and nibble-around-the-edges changes. Isn't it time that women and men who serve their country so nobly have a justice system that will serve them when they are victims of a crime?' 

It amazes me that on a black and white subject like sexual assault, we get shades of grey remarks from people like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and James Inhofe (R-OK) who use selective reasoning and accuse Senator Gillibrand of attempting to fire Military commanders with her bill.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
“This is no longer about reforming a system, this is a political cause going out of control,” Graham said on the Senate floor. Graham also erroneously claimed that Gillibrand’s bill would “fire every commander and replace the commander with a bunch of military lawyers.”
Emily Crockett, Federal Policy Reporter, RH Reality Check December 11, 2014 
D-NY Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand in a fiery rebuttal stated; "We're not making commanders less responsible, They are the only ones who can keep retaliation from happening--- and they are failing in that right now. The only difference that this bill makes is that 3 per cent of commanders--- the highest ranking Generals and commanders will no longer make this decision, but trained military prosecutors. 97 percent of commanders jobs do not change. They have to train their forces, they have to bring them into battle, they have to instill good order and discipline, and they have to make sure these victims aren't being retaliated against. That is where they are failing! We are making commanders more responsible, not less responsible. And what I want is not the most victim friendly place in the world, I want no victims!  And that's where we are failing!" Senator Gillibrand Speaks In Support of the Military Justice Improvement Act December 12, 2014

In my view. the jaws of sexual assault have claimed more victims. As prominent politicians, lawyers, and campus leaders stall and hand-wring this year. Committees have no answers, or default to doing nothing except asking for more time to study the issue. The year is gone and the needle has hardly moved enough to make a difference for men and women who wait for a change.    

The Boulder Gazette- Boulder arrest affidavit details...
Think Progress- Lawmaker Defends ‘Legitimate Rape’ Bill
New York Times- Surviving Rape in the Military
Ms. Magazine Blog: Military Rape Report Card
USA Today: Military Sexual Assault: Call For A Change
RH Reality Check: Vote Blocked on Gillibrand's Military Sexual Assault Bill
Youtube- Senator Gillibrand Speaks In Support of The MJIA

Thanks to Veracrusin and Rosie Palfy on Twitter as contributors and my friends
And to: Catherine (DeJa)and Jan (Jipso) for the friendly nudge.

Let's make 2015 a victorious for all victims.