Monday, December 30, 2013

Does An Officer Make A Gentleman?

    I am a survivor.
    I am a civilian.
    I was raped by a prestigious military officer.- Surviving 120: The First 48 Hours By Tabitha Phegley

Toy Soldiers and Manly Men

Giant Toy Soldier is a child's protector
in "March of The Wooden Soldiers"
From childhood to young adulthood, the American Soldier has always been the iconic symbol. A protector of women, children, and the elderly in our culture. Tall, brave, steadfast in his duty, he stood between us and the evil that threaten our very lives. When we see the man or woman in uniform we see someone who is honest, brave, dedicate to values and principals, which we cherish. As a child I remembered watching such antiquated movies like "March of The Wooden Soldiers." Where the 12 foot tall troops marched in cadence to Toyland, pushing back evil and saving the children and others. As boys we played with GI Joe dolls, pretending that we were brave troops, and of course, there will remain that image of Richard Gere walking into the factory and sweeping Debra Winger off her feet in "An Officer, and A Gentlemen." No doubt many a young woman thinks of that scene when they hear the song; "Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong." Sadly the dream is shattered today. For some, this man is a Hollywood myth.
Richard Geer and Debra Winger
"An Officer and A Gentleman"

The idea that what's underneath the uniform is the same as what's inside the person is a falsehood.  Now of course anyone in or out of their Class A's is flawed, but we cast the idea that the Armed Forces transforms men and women into a special breed of soldier. One who can be trusted to hold up American ideals and values, whether in time of war or peace.  But we have bought into the notion that when a guy puts on a uniform, he is a good guy, and that you should be able to judge a book by it's cover when it comes to a military man. Especially an officer.

The Sexual Assault of a young 27 year old civilian school teacher seems to be one of arrogance, assumed privilege, and an attitude of passive-aggressiveness.

Tabitha Phegley
Tabitha Phegley was drinking socially that evening with a close friend who would soon be leaving for Arizona, when she ran into Jason Boman, an Air Force Captain stationed at Whiteman AFB Mo. She and Boman knew each from a mutual friend. When Tabitha did not return to her table, the friend that she came with assumed she had left for the evening. After discovering that her ride home had left her, Tabitha text her to return to the bar, but the message wouldn't be read until the next morning. Boman and his drinking buddy, Captain Andy Waugh decided to take a cab together and not risk a DUI arrest. Boman invited his friend Waugh and Tabitha to his house for an so-called after-bar-party. Boman told her that she could hang out there until she reached her friend. “I always ask everyone to come over for drinks,” Boman said. But when the cab arrived at Boman’s address, Waugh conveniently changed his mind, and said that he was too tired and would walk to his own house a few blocks away.

Now, obviously this was going to be a party for two, with Jason Boman attempting to kiss Tabitha several times during the evening. And when it was getting late and Tabitha's text messages were not being answered she asked Jason if she could just crash on his couch. And what does this stalwart, upright all-American flyboy do? He insists that she take his bed instead. According the Kansas City Star:
"Boman said he’d be a gentleman and sleep on the couch," she testified, so she went to his bedroom and drifted off. She was awakened by severe pain from Boman’s rough jabbing of her vagina with his hand, and pleaded with him to stop. But the 5-foot-2-inch blond seemed powerless to fight him off and was falling in and out of a drunken sleep, she said." I stopped telling him no.” On the stand, she dissolved into tears. “It didn’t hurt as much as his hand did, and I wanted it over.” -Kansas City Star November 24, 2013

Read more here:
Capt. Jason Wayne Boman
Tabitha made her escape by waiting until the drunken pilot fell asleep and manage to text friends who responded and took her home. Tabitha's fault in all of this? She trusted a man who was suppose to be trustworthy. During his police interrogation Boman played the part of the true-blue shinning Captain claiming that she (Tabitha) was "a nice girl, and he didn't want to say anything against her." And yet he had lapses of memory of how they got from the living room to the bedroom, but with his lapse of memory he is sure that the sex was consensual. Maybe he was implying, this 5'2 blonde preschool teacher came onto him? And that she manage to move his  large 6'2" hulking frame from the living room into the bedroom? Maybe it was Tabitha who tried take advantage of him? I say that "tongue in cheek" because it is a sad, twisted ploy of someone who rapes, then want you to believe that they're the one's being victimized.

Military Intervention

This alleged assault that took place in Warrensburg Mo. came to the attention of judge advocate general’s office at Whiteman AFB.  Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Pennington, the top JAG officer for the bomb wing, believed it should fall within his jurisdiction. The civilian prosecutor for the case, Lynn Stoppy eventually relented and allowed the case to be transferred to a military court in hopes the the alleged perpetrator would receive a stiffer sentence if found guilty.

"To reach a guilty verdict, military law required at least four of the five jurors, all fellow Air Force officers, nearly all from the same unit as the accused, to agree. Six hours had passed since the closing arguments ended around 8 p.m. The judge was weary, too, telling the deliberators to either “wrap this up or reconvene at 0800.”They wrapped it.A little after 2:30 a.m., the court reassembled Waiting for the judge to sit first, one juror lifted her gaze from the floor and met the teacher’s eyes briefly. Tension flowed into Room 204 as it filled with bomber crews, other officers and several spouses.The lieutenant colonel on the jury read from the slip of paper. Capt. Jason Wayne Boman, 29-year-old bachelor, graduate of the Air Force Academy, class of 2005: “Not guilty.”-Lee Hill Kavanaugh,The Kansas City Star
The might of the military had come to the aid of one of their own. This is what perhaps makes this system broken. An officer by all accounts commits this crime, and the Military Justice system comes in and airlifts him out.  To the jubilation of some around him.
"The judge and jurors that morning of Sept. 14 had just filed out — but not Boman’s accuser, Tabitha Phegley — before a sudden celebration erupted in the standing-room-only courtroom. Cheers and laughter, and a great relieved sobbing arose, too---" Lee Hill Kavanaugh,The Kansas City Star
Casting a shadow of pain for Tabitha
And yet no consolation for the victim that day. According to reports, Tabitha quietly endured a 10-mile silent trip from the trial back to her apartment, later to be joined by a small group of friends who wept, and hugged her. The ripple effect of the verdict stabbing deeply into their hearts a well. Tabitha said that her friends took it harder than she did. Perhaps her expectations for a conviction were very low, so as not to be disappointed. Indeed the Justice system met her expectations that day.
 “I was expecting it all along,” she says now, recalling some of the Air Force prosecutors who seemed more concerned for the pilot’s reputation. “Let’s face it, he’s a million-dollar investment for the United States of America. Do you really think they’d just let him go?” 

But of course when you dare to speak out; those who think they know what really happened try to silence you. One parent, whose child attends the school where Miss Phegley teaches, complained that she (Tabitha) called her friend (Boman) a rapist on a website.Which was not her doing, but a friend's. On a school playground, we punish the child who is attacked for creating a disturbance. It's bothersome and noisy. Remove him or her and the problem is solved. This seems to be how we've dealt with sexual assault so far. Our society, it seems doesn't like to deal with this sort of reality. We'd like to remember our officers as gentlemen; tall, romantic, and heroic. The military it seems has swept in, evacuated their man to a new duty station, safe from any accusations, but never safe from his own conscience. His own bad act of rape, victim blaming, and betrayal will replay in his head for years to come no doubt.

Simon Must Say

We have a system that allows men to play the "good guy," and then when no one is looking they become someone else, simply because we have to prove their guilt. Some defenders of rape call it, "A hook-up gone bad." They use the culture scenario of the liberated woman who wants to be pursued, but when a misunderstanding erupts, she gets emotional and cries rape. He just made a mistake, is their defense. I'm amazed at how some of these guys who make this mistake can command a company or platoon, or how they make million-dollar decisions, but they can't distinguish between difference between "yes, and no!" They don't hear "stop!" All of a sudden we're to believe that they had a lapse in judgement. "He's a victim of a bad game of 'Simon Says!' is the inference."  Tabitha's attorney, Lynn Stoppy, originally had faith in the system, and must have felt Tabitha would receive a fair trial. From all accounts the Air Force had an agenda of rescuing their own highly valued soldier, and saving their reputation. In retrospect she remarked;
“And the victim, ---was one of the strongest witnesses I’ve ever met.… I thought she had a good chance. My heart is heavy for her as a victim of a crime.”
Military Sexual Assault Bill 
A new bill was just signed into law last week. The day after Christmas, President Obamasigned a defense bill with provisions to curb sexual assault in the U.S. military. Under the new law, anyone who engages in sexual assault will face dishonorable discharge, commanders are prevented from reversing jury decisions, legal assistance will be provided for victims, and “retaliation” against a victim will be punished.- Think Progress December 27, 2013
I would be happier about it if I believed that this law would be in the hands of men who would use it impartially, and fairly. What are the checks and balances to make sure this law is implemented, and that victims are protected whether they are within the ranks or within our neighborhoods?  Will the military do the honorable thing, and allow justice to take it's course? Or will they intervene again to help their own against lower ranking military and civilians who dare oppose this crime?

Read more here:

At this point I will refrain from pouring anymore cold water on the efforts of those who wrote this bill. The burden is indeed on the leaders of our armed forces to make sure that the numbers of sexual assault victims for the next year reverses. Not all officers are to be seen as potential rapists, some are good and decent men and women. However there are those who wear, uniform and bring shame to it, either by their crimes, or their circumvention of justice.

Continue to support Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's bill. The aforementioned law is a good one, but the MJIA Bill will take the guesswork out of whether a sexual assault victims will receive a fair trial and a chance for justice.

A special thank to Tabitha for letting me tell your story.
Tabitha Phegley: Surviving 120: The First 48 Hours
Other Sources: Think Progress December 27, 2013- President Obama Signs Military Sexual Assault Bill
Kansas City Star: Case of The B52 Pilot Charged with Rape
Happy 2014 to us all. I trust this will be a victorious year for many of you Invisible Warriors.

Read more here:

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Monday, December 23, 2013

My Christmas Gift To You

There's a lot of yakking, and brown journalism on this War on Christmas. I'm only going to say this; We need to rest our minds from the trash that the media, internet, and negative bloggers have to say. Focus on the positive spirit of the holiday. Click below for a retelling of a Christmas event that is almost one Hundred years old. Read and share it with others. It's my gift to you. And a reminder that anything is possible.

Click Here For:The Silent War Of Christmas

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pushing Against The Gates

One of the more memorable speeches at the MLK “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington celebration this year, came from former President Bill Clinton. Urging all American's to fight on for the causes of civil liberty and justice, he said, "We must put out shoulders to the gates and push against those stubborn gates that hold America back."
I just finished reading several reports from news sources which claim a victory on the fight of sexual assault and rape in the military.

Senate Vote 84-15 On Sexual Assault Provisions
"The Senate voted 84-15 Thursday night for the legislation, which capped a year-long campaign led by the women of the Senate to address the scourge of rape and sexual assault in the ranks." The Associated Press, December 20, 2013
This, of course, is not the ultimate victory that many of us are are hoping for, which would be ushered in by the Gillibrand Bill, The Military Justice Improvement Act, but it seems like a push against that stubborn wall of Justice for Survivors and their families. The MJIA proposal would give sexual assault victims access to advocacy outside of the chain of command. History has shown that when cases of sexual assault and rape are reported within the chain of command, very little to nothing has been done to either investigate the alleged crime, or present a strong advocacy for the ones reporting the alleged incident. In fact anywhere within the CC, from the immediate supervisors, to base commanders view those reporting the incident as trouble makers. They have attempted to do damage control within their ranks by saying anything from, "You're the problem" or "you miss understood his intentions. I will concede that his actions were not those of a gentleman, but this was not rape." This is the sort of outrageous behavior that our military leaders have displayed in the face of a crime that give us as a country an un-washable stain.
The 84-15 vote includes measures that would force military leaders to comply within the laws and report and act, excluded Senator Gillibrand's bill. And in a way I am thankful. It seems like with this package of goodies that is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2014, the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) would have gotten lost in the deep weeds.

Separate Is Better 

The NDAA-2014 is suppose to handle how the Pentagon handles sexual assault cases. Which frankly disquiets me. Unbelievably we are putting the same men with perhaps a new system back in charge of how sexual assault cases. Again, it's like hiring wolves to do a sheep dog's job.
The downside to this whole dilemma is that we will have to wait (hopefully only as long as January) for Senator Gilldibrand's bill to be voted on. The big problem has been not only the rape itself, but the retaliation when an assault is reported. Therefore many have not reported the incidents for (in my opinion) very justified reasons. Apparently reporting your assailant in the Chain of Command and hoping for justice, is like walking off a steep building, and hoping gravity will cancel itself just for you. What are the chances?

An incensed Senator speaks with Secretary Michael B. Donely on the original numbers of reported cases in 2011 and plus the recent scandal of an Air Force Officer Jeffrey Krusinski, the sexual assault
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Faces off
on Sexual Assaults
prevention officer, accused of sexual assault himself against a civilian.
"If the man in charge of training for the Air Force-- in preventing sexual assault--- is being alleged to have committed a sexual assault-- obviously there is a failing in training and understanding-- of what sexual assault is.  Of how corrosive and damaging, sexually assault is to good order and discipline-- and how it is undermining the credibility of the greatest military force in the world!"

AF Chief Gen. Mark A. Welsh III
 Secretary Michael B.Donely 
Both the Secretary and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III had contended that to maintain good order and discipline, that sexual assault cases must not be taken out of the chain of command. I found it fascinating that the General argued numbers with the Senator, and that this crisis must be studied. Have you ever been in a crisis reader? Do you want someone to study your situation? Of course not! You want action. As I blog this, someone is being assaulted by someone in their own ranks. This matter has been studied to death at the expense of young men and women who we send into the armed forces. I understand the need for analysis. But first pull your people out of the inferno and then study the situation. Analysis is part of the preventative process to correct the situation. But Lives are being destroyed because there are serial predators in the ranks. 

So for now the Gillibrand Bill sits alone. It's not part of the National Defense Authorization Act. And somehow I'm happy because my gut tells me that it will stand alone as a bright shining piece of legislation for 2014. This means we still have time to write, call, Facebook, or Tweet our Representatives and Senators. This is not a politically partisan issue. It's a human rights issue that is worth fighting for.

Their Shoulders To The Stubborn Gates

I am very grateful that there are more women in Congress. The ladies such as Rep. Jackie Speier, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein and Senator Gillabrand. Thank you all for you support and encouraging words that have helped to keep on the course of this fight.  You're making a difference in the Senate. Yes, education and experience is essential, but thank you for not sitting on the side-lines or taking a back seat to the boys when the job has to be done. We need your compassion too, as well as your ability to stay in touch with people. A special shout out to Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, for leading a Bi-Partisan team to get the job done. Enjoy your time with your families and loved ones.

My Christmas Wish

Christmas Wishes for all of the survivors of Military Sexual Trauma. I pray for your peace at the end of
2013. The fight has been a long one, but you are loved by many of us, and you are not forgotten. A special Christmas greeting for the families of fallen soldiers in this Invisible War including John and Linda Johnson.

 Fact Sheet On Sexual Assault In The Military
Fact Sheet Click Here

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why Should We Trust The Old Guard With New Ideas

Sows Ears and Old Wine Skins

When I think about trying to make a worthless thing useful; 2 sayings comes to mind. Jonathan Swift (Author of Gulliver's Travels) was credited with the saying "you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear." Basically it's organically impossible to make something of value out of what is worthless. Jesus of Nazareth also said "Do not put new wine into old wineskins. If you do the skins will burst spilling the wine on the ground." Now while Jonathan Swift said you can't start out with a useless thing and expect to get something of value, if you put something of value into something that is worn out then you will lose your wine or your ultimate goal. I also remember the words of my Mom who said, "boy you can't half-ass do a job, and get good results."

Compromise is good when you can take the best ideas from everyone, and have the best people making them work. But compromise isn't just some magic bullet that you can use with any situation. You can't just bring ideas together from everyone, and try to do a force fit just to make people happy. Especially when the system or institution still remains broken. You have to look at the ideas and have the guts to say "this won't fit, or help achieve the final goal." And what is the thing that is broken? It's the military justice system. And why is our military justice system broken? It has failed to address the ongoing escalating military sexual assault epidemic in our country, which was reported in 2011 at 11,000 sexual assaults, and which shot up to and estimated (and no doubt still under reported) 26,000 sexual assaults in 2012. And yet we have congressmen and senators who are trying to find a way to fix the problem while leaving the damage-makers in charge. That's like trying to retain a wolf to be a sheep dog! Do I have to tell you, that's a bad idea?

Outrageous Betrayal and Beyond

Trina McDonald
Twenty-five years ago a young, eager 18-year-old, Trina McDonald, was stationed at Naval Security Group Activity in Adak, Alaska. Fresh and scrappy, she was anxious to serve. Meeting up with her sponsor, Trina was shown around the base, and finally with her sponsor finally taking Trina to a bar, and then back to some friend's room where she drank some beer, and remembered not feeling very well. Struggling to make it back to her quarters Trina recalls a man standing in the doorway, and then someone putting a pillow over her head, and being sexually assaulted. The next nine months Trina was drugged and raped repeatedly, personnel she regarded as her friends, as well as senior officers.
"You end up in this position where you think these people were your friends.-- You are stationed with people who have taken the same oath.-- You are going to defend the country, you are going to defend each other-- we would have died for one another.-- and you end up in a situation like I did with someone I considered a friend and being sexually assaulted by this person-- I was devastated." -Trina McDonald The Good Fight Podcast

Terrorized into silence
Why didn't Trina report this inhuman series of nightmarish attacks? Perhaps because one of the persons who committed this heinous act was military police. And others were in authority over her. At one point four officers tossed her in the Bering Sea. With frigid waters over her head she struggled to make it out of the icy waves only to be met by the four men and one woman, who told her to keep her mouth shut, or they would kill her. The final desperate act happened when, after leaving her duty station, Trina discovered her personal effects had been gone through, and pictures along with civilian information (addresses) had been removed. This was a clear warning that if she ever talked to authorities, her family would pay. Trina had been terrorized into silence by the very ones who had sworn to protect her.

One Movie Many Voices
 Trina was one of the key players of the movie "The Invisible War" and tells what her life was like after that. She had  PTSD; she suffered from alcoholism, depression, drug, addiction, and at one point Trina was homeless, and tried to take her own life. But something within her spirit caused her to climb out of that well of despair, and fight back. She began sharing her story within the movie as a way to expose a hidden evil. After watching the movie myself, it felt like watching something that you didn't want to see or know about, but you couldn't turn away from; partly because this was being told by people like Trina McDonald. There weren't actors. They were survivors of a moral outrage. But their story was beginning to knock the military right to it's knees with a message; "this happened to me, and you failed to give me justice."  The truth of the matter was, America expected to see a documentary about atrocities perpetrated by the enemy abroad. Not by American servicemen within their own ranks. But the poster's sub-message "The battleground is your barracks..." was the spoiler that told it all. It is: betrayed by the very institution that is waving the flag of freedom high.

Speaking Truth To Freedom

Survivor turned advocate Trina McDonald brings her petition to DC



Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) With Trina
So after 25 years of broken promises by a broken system, are we suppose to just take them at their word that the problem of sexual assault in the ranks will be resolved? On June 4, 2013, Trina McDonald brought a petition to Washington DC with 215,000 signatures to remove the prosecution from the Chain of Command as far as sexual assault cases were concerned. Many of the victims like Trina couldn't access justice within the chain of command, and now she was moving to get help from Congress. As the stories through The Invisible War and other documentaries, were telling the gruesome stories of rape and injustice being perpetrated on the lives of men and women who volunteered to serve our country, many Senators were shocked and outraged by the stories and by the numbers.

"I couldn't believe how poorly some of these men and women were treated. I couldn't believe in some cases, commanders told victims that when they reported these crimes that it was their own fault-- or that they intended to do nothing. I couldn't believe that in some instances commanders still saw this issue as a perpetrator not being a gentleman---"Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D- NY) The Good Fight Podcast

Also more scandal rocked the military as a Sexual assault prevention officer at Ft. Hood in Texas was arrested for the very crime he was suppose to be combatting, and a M.Sgt. at that same base had been forcing female soldiers into prostitution. And 2 major high profile rape cases were overturned by 2 three-star Generals. 


MJIA VS. Sow's Ear of Rhetoric

And yet the drivel of "Zero Tolerance" for rape in the Military continues. Amazing! The top brass continued to fight for their positions and military in the face of such atrocities. The talk sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher. Lots of noise, and nothing discernible.
 Senator Gillibrand has drafted The "Military Justice Improvement Act."
In a nutshell this bill is designed to give military personnel free access to advocacy when high crimes such as rape are committed against them. It doesn't strip any commander of his power of authority over his troops or unit. And yet either top brass and some politicians are making this issue of "maintaining good order and discipline" their cornerstone of defense.  
Senator Gillibrand gives push back to those claiming her bill would disrupt good order and discipline  
"Commanders do not need this legal right, to set the command climate. In fact most commanders will never have this legal right." -Kirsten Gillibrand

No Spilled Wine Here

And so ever since the birth of the MJIA in June of 2013 the war continues. The Bill has suffered some setbacks. Most recent was when the bill was to be brought to the Senate floor, but the Senate failed to vote on the act. It seems to have been stonewalled at the last minute when some Republican Senators made a lot of noise over another issue; there was never a vote.

Trina presents her petition Senator Gillibrand
But it's not over. Senator Gillibrand sees that time is on our side. It's a chance to meet other Senators, and have victims like Trina share their story in hopes some may put a face to all the stats and stories being heard. Yes it would have been a great Christmas present for all who are working so hard on this issue, but another gift that is equally as awesome is that Senator Gillibrand, Representative Speier, Senator Boxer, and others will fight on. The proposal is not dead. It will come back in 2014.
As I think about all who are reading this blog I would tell you: Don't give up. The fight is not over. We just need to use this time wisely. Please don't waste another day with defeatist thinking. Most people like Trina, and thousands of survivors, are in this fight because they want to prevent what happened to them from happening to others. Meaning there needs to be a system in place so that others are not swept aside, or thrown away as though their willingness to serve meant nothing. So call, Twitter, Facebook, or write your Congressman or State Representative. They need to hear from you on the Military Justice Improvement Act. Here's hoping that your Christmas is a bright one. Thank you all for your feedback.
Special Thanks to
Trina McDonald who shared her story with me. Thanks Trina, you are beyond awesome!
The Invisible War  a voice in the wilderness!
Move On.Org  Petitioners Extraordinaire
The Good Fight With Ben Wikler  Great Podcast. Check them out!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Sounds Of Silence

This is not an easy subject to blog about. Male Sexual Assaults in the military is an issue more under-reported than female rapes and sexual assaults. It carries its own stigma for the men of this horrific crime. While there is the outrage to personage of both genders, men question their own masculinity, their own ability to act as men should in our American society.

Got Be A Macho Man

GI Joe: Everything A Fighting Man should be
Young boys enter the Armed Forces in hopes to elevate or change over whatever perception society
has about them. They believe putting on the uniform will give them respect by their civilian peers, elders, and a sense of self respect and purpose. Young men are fed a diet of what it should mean to be a man: virile, tough, courageous, and even sexy enough to impress a woman through Hollywood's hottest leading male types. The stallions of the cinema; the bad ass rebels who can kick ass, jump from burning buildings, and rescue hot women. The Clooney's, the Brad Pitt's, Harrison Ford's, the Tom Cruise's represent maleness in today's culture.

Now imaging signing up for an institution that promises to make a fighting machine out of you, where you train hard, live tough, and dress in a uniform that will make the gals swoon back home. "Sign me up" you say. But then your hopes crash down to earth! They're shattered by the one thing you didn't count on; your manhood has been shattered by an act (or in some cases a series) of rape.

Because of male stereotypes, who we are suppose to be; male rape in the military engulfs a person's very essence in the shadows of shame and silence. "Don't talk!"--- "People will think you're queer"--- "you're weak!"---"Real men don't get raped."--- "Don't say anything, you'll get over it!"---"Talk and you're military career is over!" A man becomes incased in a prison of shame and fear.  The world is different now, people are different, and they believe that they are different. There is self-incrimination, and debasement.

The unadorned facts are because there are more men in our military than women, the case of sexual assault and rape are statically higher. While the number of sexual assaults by 2012 rose to 26,000 cases approximately 53% of those attacks were on men. While society continues to either ignore, or give a side-eye glance to that statistic, it cannot be disputed that this is happening within the ranks of the greatest military force on earth, and men embraced the silence.

The Vision That Planted Still Remains

Brian K Lewis
On March 13, 2013, I watched victims of Sexual Assault in the military give their eye-opening testimony of their ordeals at the hand of military criminals within the ranks of their duty stations. If you watched this broadcast on C-Span, the most noted testimony was a former Chief Petty officer, Brian K. Lewis of the US Navy.  To record, he is the first male survivor to testify before congress on this issue. I couldn't help but note the flashes of grimace on his face as he gave testimony throughout the session.
"During my tour on the USS Frank Cable, I was raped by a superior non-commissioned officer. I was ordered by my command not to report this crime. After this crime had taken place, I was misdiagnosed with a personality disorder by the Director of Defense Centers.--- The culture of victim blaming and retaliation while failing to punish the perpetrator must end. We cannot send the message that men cannot be raped and therefore are not real survivors."
Brian, who is now an advocacy committee member of "Protect Our Defenders" and the president of "Men Recovering From Military Sexual Trauma" does not discount the plight of women in the ranks, he is attempting to raise his voice so that other men will step out from the shadows.

"We need to be talking about this in a gender inclusive way where we're talking about victims and perpetrators."
 This crime carries a different stigma for men, because our whole identity is wrapped up in our masculinity. We don't nurture.  We conquer.  We measure life in terms of winners and whiners. "Don't cry!--- be a man!" we tell little boys.  Sensitivity and virility are not compatible in our culture. We fix cars, love sports, have large man size appetite's, leer at women, and when it come to sex--- we conquer! We don't get conquered! And real men don't give a damn whether anyone likes it or not. Even men who don't have those attributes, aspire to the notion. And when a man becomes traumatized by sexual assault, all of those things bury him alive. "That was what I was suppose to be. Now, what am I?"

People Talking Without Speaking

To stay quiet, and never talk about this horrific act is the way most men choose to deal with it. In fact, only 2% of male victims ever report the crime. The reasons are pretty obvious.  But it's inconceivable for most men to deal with the vulnerable state they would be in if anyone ever knew. Compounded with your close quarters life with the military, you'd hardly escape the ridicule, abuse, taunts, and whispers.    

Michael Matthews was an airman stationed at Whiteman AFB in Mo in1972, when he was sexually assaulted he kept in the shadows for 30 years. Michael had been married and divorce twice, tried to commit suicide four times.
"Coming forward with something like this, there was a risk involved. ---There wouldn't have been any help.--- I served 12 years on active duty, and I hadn't told anyone for over 30 years." Perhaps at some point Michael knew that the wheels were coming off of his third marriage to his wife Geri to whom he had been married to for 25 years.  It "was the scariest moment of my life. I was going to tell my wife, and she was going to leave me.--- Honest to God I couldn't get up every morning without my wife.---and I told her."
Geri recalled the flood of emotions she felt after Michael stepped out of the shadows with his story of being raped. " I felt horrified and sad--- and angry, and feelings began to surface that had been simmering for a long time." as they held each other that evening, Michael could feel this great weight being lifted off of him.

Silence Like a Cancer Grows

Back in 1998 Jeremiah Arbogast joined the Marines just after high school. He never heard about these issues. He started as a motor transport operator, and later was a lance corporal in a weapons training battalion. He was preparing to deploy to Okinawa-- until he was assaulted by someone he trusted. His very own boss.

Arbogast entered the home of his former boss, a Marine staff sergeant, he wearing a body wire hooked up by NCIS, which was listening from a nearby car.
"I need to know what happened," Arbogast told the staff sergeant in 2001. "I need to get help. I can't get help if I don't know what happened."
The man began to coolly list everything he had done to Arbogast, recounting his rape.
"I don't know what possessed him to just be like, 'I did this, this and this, and that's that,'" Arbogast said. "No remorse, no nothing." Arbogast got his rapist's full confession on tape, but the process severely traumatized him -- again.
The staff sergeant was convicted by court martial in 2002, given merely a "bad conduct" discharge from the Marines. However for Jeremiah; his living hell escalated. He suffered more years of severe depression, nightmares and insomnia. He had trouble concentrating; his mind would wander back to the rape. Divorced then remarried plus drinking to numb the pain. Nothing worked. Finally retrieving a revolver from the glove compartment of his wife's car he was ready to end is life. He suffered a gun shot wound and left him a partial paraplegic. In a moment that was just ordered for him, later, his wife would say to him "Now you have a gift. You need to use it." I think, in hindsight, these are the words that changed Jeremiah's trajectory.

"Something clicked," said Arbogast, now 32. "I didn't want anybody else to go through it."  People don't understand why it's a gift," he added, reflecting on his whole experience. "But many people die and never realize what they really had, what their purpose in life was. My life was spared to give me a purpose."


And In The Naked Light I Saw 

 Of the many servicemen and women surveyed in the report in 2012, 53% of the victims were male. Only 2% of that number reported the abuse or assault for fear of retaliation ridicule or further acts of violence on them. This is an extremely low under-reporting. Some victims were told "you are the problem." Eventually many were discharged, suffering in silence of their abuse. Some like Brian, Michael, and Jeremiah are beginning to fight back.

Brian Lewis
Brian Lewis now is an advocacy committee member of "Protect Our Defenders." and is President of "Men Recovering From Military Sexual Trauma" He has a life partner who has been loving and supportive of his efforts to bring male sexual trauma to the forefront of the public's attention.
In 26 years of trying to police itself regarding Military Sexual Trauma, the military has only proved one thing; the military is incapable of investigating and adjudicating sexual crime cases."

After Michael Matthew's shared his story with his wife Geri Lynn, Geri responded by saying "Let's Make a movie!" She and Michael have partnered with Michael L Miller to produce the documentary "Justice Denied." This film highlights the fact that not only women are victims but men as well.

"It has to be taken out of the chain of command.-- They've been fighting this for forty years, and Congress, and the Senate keep saying 'we need more studies.' How many more studies are we going to do? Enough already!"

 Jeremiah Arbogast has become involved in "Paralympic" and adaptive sports and is a decorated athlete in cycling and swimming. He had never skied in his life before he became a paraplegic; now he loves it, terrorizing the slopes in a monoski, a bucket chair with a ski attached. Recently, he's been learning how to get around with braces. Like the others, Ray is refusing to live his life again outside the shadows of silence. He shared his story with others through video and blogs and articles.

"I've been through life and death," he said. "There is gonna come a time in your life when you have to say enough is enough. You're letting that perpetrator who assaulted you rent your life for free. You're becoming a slave to what they've done to you."
These men are just a few of the many who have served our Armed Forces. Many like them hide in the shadows of silence. Because criminals are allowed to masquerade as soldiers, airmen, and sailors. These three men have found their voices. Many more need to find theirs.  We must urge our officials (local and national) to take action by adopting policies that will fix this broken institution. By putting a system in the military that is fair and impartial. Defending the victim, and punishing the guilty.

Thank to all of you contributing your thoughts and encouragement.
A big thanks to Jeremiah Arbogast for sending emails, pics and articles of his story. Stay strong brother!

Molly O'Toole for the original article from Huffington Post-

Protect our Defenders for the information and materials used in this story.-

And "Justice Denied" the Movie: Exposing the truth of male victims of military sexual assault

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How Did We Get Here?

Perhaps one of my guilty pleasures has been watching "The Law And Order" franchise for the last 25 years. With different variations on the theme, the series pits New York's finest against an array of crimes and legal battles. The last series standing is "Law And Order SVU": a series devoted to dealing with the most vile offenders of society, the rapist.

"In the criminal justice system---sexually based offenses are considered to be especially heinous---"
That's the opening narrative to "Law And Order: Special Victims Unit." What was most notable about this show was a recent episode called "Military Justice." A female Coast Guard officer was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. In the investigation it turns out that she had been sexually assaulted. With The SUV Team going into action, arrests were made of 3 other officers who were at the bar on the night of the incident.  If you are "spoiler alert allergic," then I'm sorry to tell you, that it's not my job to make you happy that way.

Law & Order SVU Military Justice
The show was compelling to me because as you watch it, you see the military go into action doing damage control, including arresting the victim for adultery. (Even though she was not married and one of the accused officers is.) You later find that her commanding officer set up the attack and took part in it. The scenario in many ways is credible. And it's interesting to note that all of these officers were found guilty in a civilian trial. I thought "Nice! But we're not there yet where the civilian authorities can bring a military incident to trial, and get justice for the victim.

The year is about to end with the Military Justice Improvement Act ready to be voted on. The History of sexual assaults is long, and no doubt runs farther back than the Tailhook Scandal.

1991 US Navy

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. Full of stories, wild sex acts in the pool area, and a gauntlet where many Navy and civilian women were groped, their clothes torn off, and in some cases sexually assaulted. One of 2 women getting off the elevator of the third floor of the Hilton was Lt. Paula Coughlin. 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. 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 at first wanted to label the situation as "misbehavior" according to Barbara Pope, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In what looked to be a military white wash Paula Coughlin said "enough!"  She went on National TV 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 whistle blower to her male counter parts.
LT. Paula Coughlin US Navy
"I had to walk into a room full of Naval aviators that felt like I had ruined their tribe. I had to  listen to a live talk show that talked about how I had ruined the Navy and what a slut I was. just treading water, and trying not to kill myself." -Paula Coughlin

After a tell-all investigation was conducted, and 90 victims were discovered, and 140 officers were involved, no one was prosecuted. Soon afterwards Paula left the Navy.

1996 US Army

The Aberdeen Proving Grounds was the focus of a sex scandal which involved 30 recruits. Some of the complaints ranged from unwanted touching, sexual advances, threats, intimidation, rape, and forcible sodomy.

"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
Obviously because of the "Tailhook Scandal" The Army attempted to give out justice to 2 of the NCO's involved in the complaint. That is down from 19 of the original NCO's named in the original complaint.  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 Nathanael 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.

2003 US Air Force

US Air Force Academy
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 was ensued, and the findings were that "of 659 women enrolled at the Academy at the time, 70 percent of the 579 women at the academy alleged they had been the victims of sexual harassment, of which 22 percent said they experienced "pressure for sexual favors. Rate of Rape at Academy Is Put at 12% in Survey". The New York Times. 28 August 2003. Retrieved 28 March 2005.

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 not enough sufficient evidence for a court marshal.

2005 US Army- Iraq

PFC Laverne L. Johnson
 Lavena 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. After 6 years of a big, fat cover-up the Army still refuses to investigate any farther than their original conclusions. But the Johnsons fight on.

The Story of Lavena Johnson Courtesy of "Protect Our Defenders" 

2006 US Marine Corps

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 of 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. 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.

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 July 16, 2006 LT. After The Silent Drill routine, and several rounds of drinks a the local pub, 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 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.

Arianna Klay
Marine Barracks is also known for it's drinking culture. Following anther Silent Drill Team ceremony 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.


After living through 25 years of Military Scandals both in the media, and those gone unreported it is apparent that enough is far beyond enough! There have been scores of hearings on Sexual Assault in the Military.
  • The answers from high ranking officials are: we're implementing changes now.
  •  Sexual Assault is unacceptable in the military.
  • More victims need to report the crime to us.
  • We have Zero Tolerance for Sexual Assault  

So now our top brass of the military have the gall to cry foul when the victims, advocates, veterans, and some senators have proposed a bill that would remove commanders as convening authorizes, over sexual assault cases. They say that commanders must have complete authority over their command in all matters, or it will break down discipline and order. But when you have a reported 26,000 cases of rape since 2012, where is the discipline and order? Where was it when men and women were being violated, their careers put in jeopardy, and in the worse cases such as Laverna Johnson silenced forever?  We can't wait forever for this scourge to be eradicated for our military. We give you our potentially best and brightest, and you return them to us broken; without hope, and even some with life.

L-R Sen R. Blumenthal, A. Klay
Sen. K. Gillibrand Sen. D Heller, K.Webber
That is why the Military Justice Improvement Act is needed. It doesn't take away authority from the commanders. It just empowers the victims to have fair justice in this democracy. And so as you read this blog, whoever you are, please contact your senators. Do it through email, Facebook, or Twitter, but do it now. We can't keep sending our future generations into a torrent of a destructive organization, that is beyond broken, and beyond repair. We can only hope it will give the "Law And Order" needed for our victims of sexual assault.

Source for this blog come from:
Protect Our Defenders:
The Invisible War:
Law And Order SVU: 2013 NBC/Universal Television

Next week: Male Survivors of Sexual Assault In The Military