Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shades of Gray

Jimmy Stewart as Jefferson Davis in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

When A Man Should Stand And Fight

One of my favorite movies is Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. It's a story of a young idealist played by Jimmy Stewart whose appointment to the Senate has him face to face with the big boys of Congress. He finds himself standing alone, and almost being run out of DC.  But with the help of his lady assistant played by Jean Arthur, he's able to do battle with the crooked politicians on Capitol Hill. The movie is, of course, idealistic in it's storytelling, but I'm a cheerleader for the against-all-odd's beliefs that good principals along with moral character counts for something today.  Or at least it should. Those of us who want a better government and better laws know that it takes men, and today women, who will fight for those values that we believe in. We need to fight on, especially when the fight gets rough.

I watched Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in a recent interview on MSNBC with Karen Finney, speak about her resolve to fight on for the passage of her bill: MJIA in the Senate. It appears that her fight is not very popular with some of her colleagues, as well with some of the media. She might appear stubborn, pushy, naive, even a boat-rocker, but if this issue has touched you in any way, you can't but admire the senator's tenacity and resolve to get it passed.

Kirsten Gillibrand takes a "Mr. Smith" stance on Sexual Assault
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand won’t take no for an answer. The New York Democrat, widely credited with shining a harsh spotlight in the past year on sexual abuse in the U.S. military, is standing by a proposed radical change to the system of prosecuting such cases that goes far beyond other compromise measures advocated by other Democrats and has invited strong pushback from military leaders. -By Meredith Clark MSNBC
Senator Gillibrand's strategy is one of Bi-partisanship on this issue. A good strategy in my book, because a rapist doesn't care about your politics or many other things. This is not a crime against liberals, or conservatives, but against women, and some men, who are perceived as being weak. Rape is a weapon used to humiliate, and destroy a person's self esteem.

Selling Out From Compromise

  You cannot listen to the stories of the survivors of this crime, and not feel a challenge to act in some way. The Senator remarked that after hearing some of the victims stories, of not just the rape itself, but how these women and men were disregarded by their commanders, their cases never pursued, and how they themselves were cast out into a gray society, with little hope, sometimes homeless, with no benefits, or a chance to get help for their shattered lives, was what moved her to draft this bill.

"---And that's exactly what motivated me to do something about this issue. When I heard the stories of and men and women who are so brave who will literally give their lives for our country, to be not only be brutally assaulted and raped but then to have their commander turn their back on them--- that was the violation of trust--- that was the breach of trust that devastate these men and women, because they look at the military not just as a career but as a family--- as a unit--- as a group of people--- that they all share the same mission, to defend this country and defend our values. ---And when that is breached because a commander says to you that 'it's your own fault that you were raped' ---it's destroyed--- and that breach of trust is why justice is impossible for so many of our survivors." 

The Foolish From The Wise

Perhaps it does take a Mrs. G going to Washington to dig her heels in and swim against the odds to make something happen. She refuses to accept a gray solution to a black and white issue. Many of us no doubt were hoping for a slam dunk passage of the MJIA by the end of December of last year. But the Senator knows that her passion can't overrule her common political sense on this important piece of proposed legislation. No doubt some of the top military brass have been courting various Senators about what it would mean if such a bill became a law. So Gillibrand must get the 60 votes needed to insure its success, or she could be staring a filibuster session in the face, which would almost kill her bill for certain. So she must use this time to persuade the Senators from both sides of the isle to join her in the fight.
No one really knows what's happening behind the walls of the various military institutions as this blog goes out to you.  I believe that some commanders on various levels want true reform.  Perhaps they are even taking steps to make that happen.  But if what has been reported from the Pentagon on Sexism being routine in the military is accurate, a hard-nose zero-tolerance approach needs to be instituted at the entrance level of all of the military academies.
"Defense officials said on Thursday that students at the academies see sexual assault and crude behavior as an almost accepted part of their academy experience. Victims also feel peer pressure not to report incidents. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., the superintended at West Point, told AP that training needed to encourage cadets to find the moral courage to stand up to such behavior." -Sexism Is Routine In Military Academies, Says Pentagon Time January 10,2014
If sexism is being accepted at the academy level as being routine, then that's where the real problem begins. The military shouldn't just encourage cadets to stand up to and police their own peers, the leaders themselves need to take a bare-knuckled approach in how they run their institutions. The words from nine of our NATO Allies, Lt. Gen. David Morrison, chief of staff of the Australian Defense Force still rings in my ears.
Lt. General Davis Morrison gives a "no shaded gray" speech
"No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian Army. I will be ruthless in ridding the Army of people who cannot live up to its values, and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept."
The Lt. General basically said, if you can't respect the men and women serving with you, "then get out!" (See my previous blog for the entire speech).  I am stoked when hear a leader take a hard stand such as that.  Do you think the men and women serving under his command would be afraid to report an incident of rape?  So Pentagon, as much as your report is appreciate for it's transparency, what are you going to do about the way things are? Perhaps you should elevate your leadership from one that encourages your men to take a moral stance, to one that says; "if you don't conform to the values of this institution, then there's the door!" That's a real black and white speech, no gray area for misinterpretation. I don't apologize for praising our Aussie commander, instead of our American commanders.  Show me something worth cheering about, and I will blog it in sky-writing.  I don't mind being wrong for the right reasons. But it would stand to reason that an ounce of academy expulsions, are worth a ton of MST victims, to coin a phrase.

We maybe about 2 weeks away from this congressional cage-match with the Senator. If we've done our part by making our voices known to our Representatives and Congress folks, then we've done almost all we can do. It will be up to Congress to take a black-and-white stand on this issue. This is where the phrase "Support our troops" should really mean something.

As a tribute to so many of our sexual assault survivors, plus the fallen invisible warriors, and their families, I have produced a music video to your valiant efforts in combating this scourge and blight on our American Military. Also this is in dedication the Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and her team who continue to take a stand. Thank you Mrs. G for going to Washington.

My special video in honor of Invisible Warriors

Have a great day. Write or email a service person this week. Let them know you're thinking about them.
Special Thanks to: HawkEye ‏@TheScoopHere_NV  and Barbara Jackson @Nyota_nura on Twitter for passing on articles and sources

MSNBC Blog- Gillibrand’s tireless fight against military sex assault
Time Magazine- Sexism Is Routine In Military Academies, Says Pentagon Time January 10,2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is Change Really Changing?

Come gather 'round people, wherever you roam
 And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a changin'
Most of you know that old Bob Dylan tune from the 60's. It was sort of a theme for a generation telling their elders, and parents; "were not going to do things your way---We've caught you in the lie--- your values are value-less--- you're hypocritical, and we're going to make changes."  
In 2012 many survivors of sexual assault and rape in the military stated plain and simple, they couldn't get justice for the crimes perpetrated on them because their commanders saw them as the problem, or that the rape was their fault. The reward for their willingness to serve their country? They were thrown under the wheels of the great system of military justice, and in many cases with a less than honorable discharge.

Now with spotlight on the crime, the top brass of the military responses like a man found guilty of domestic violence. He shows up with flowers in hand, saying the right words and begs his battered spouse to take him back, or at least not file for divorce. Maybe he sheds a tear, gets down on his knees, and makes promises to go to anger management classes or wherever. "I'll change honey--- you'll see." Does this sound familiar? Now I know that I paint a pretty skeptical picture of our top brass's attempts to reform things, but after you've heard the talk, and seen the bruises, taken your best friend to the emergency room, helped her to make a police report, got the restraining order--- then he shows up with flowers and an apology, how would you react?

Come Senators, Congressmen

How does a Representative like Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) react?

The status quo in the military, is not the way to solve the problem of sexual abuse--- too often it is the problem. Every year that I've been in congress, the military brass has come to us and said that they would stop this abuse. Yet each year it seems to be getting worse.--- Despite the widespread public and congressional outrage, some top military officers still seem to resist the important fundamental changes to a culture that has clearly failed, in one of its most important missions--- keeping its own people safe, and the casuals are mounting everyday."
 Rep. Maloney, has sat on too many committees, heard the promises too many times, and she seems to be skeptical of any sincere change within the military chain of command. Granted, being a skeptic won't make you popular, but on this issue I think it's a little less costly to be skeptical than to be sorry. A friend tweeted several articles on sexual assault this week, among which was an article on the Navy's No. 2 officer being forced out.
 Robert Martinage,
"WASHINGTON — Acting Navy Undersecretary Robert Martinage, the department’s No. 2, has resigned under pressure, sources confirmed for Defense News.  The resignation, which Martinage announced to his staff Tuesday morning, came after allegations were made of inappropriate conduct with a subordinate woman, the sources confirmed." -Navy Times January 15, 2014
Another positive piece of news come from from the Army. On December 23, I saw an article about Lt.
Lt. Col. Celia FlorCruz
Col. Celia FlorCruz who has an assignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. They have called on her to make the Army a better place by rooting out sexual assaults in the ranks. While I don't doubt her sincerity, I wonder how far the military will allow her to go in eradicating this behavior?
She’s the top sex assault prevention and response officer for the 7th Infantry Division, which includes the base’s main combat brigades.  It’s a high-profile position because reports of rising sex assaults have drawn the attention of lawmakers who’d like to change the military justice system so that commanders lose authority over prosecutions in such cases. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is integrating women into front-line combat jobs.- The News Tribune December 23, 2013

Read more here:
On the surface, these look good--- positive steps to help stem this tide of sexual assault in the military. And hopefully they're not the "flowers in hand approach," the military is using to handle the public and the media. One of the reasons for my skepticism lies in plain old human behavior.  "A person to quick too repent with words is sometimes too slow to reform."  I've dealt with abuse victims and so-called reformers, and I've asked myself, "Is this change, or a fix?" A fix will get you past the the present situation, but is temporary, then when everything is back to normal, the abuse begins again.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
"I have been in congress for seven terms now, and every single term we have had meetings with DOD, and they come in and confirm to us, 'were going to be serious--- were going to take care of this--- we're going to stop this--- zero tolerance!" But the rhetoric is not being turned into the reality of protecting our women, and in some cases, our men in our military." -Rep. Carolyn Maloney on Sexual Assault In the Military. The Invisible War
Mrs. Maloney has now been in office for almost 11 years, as she listens to the Pentagon and military brass spout the same thing.  Do you think she seems a little fed up?  If real change does happen, maybe she, more than anyone, might deserve the honor of saying, "well it's about damn time!"

Please Heed The Call

fight-combat ready GI Jane's
But while "the times they are a changin" with women going from pretty pin-up poster icons, and administrative assistance, to real "fight-combat ready GI Jane's," has the institution begun some real long over-due changes?  If they have, it could be partly because of an undeterred Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who is determined to have her bill voted on some time maybe in February of this year.
"The Military Justice Improvement Act" would take decision to prosecute sexual assault and other capital cases out of the chain of command, and allow qualified experienced advocates to handle heinous crimes such as rape and murder. This would not hurt the authority of the military command in the Armed Forces. The process of justice would be handled by civil authorities. It seems like it's meant to be an effort to dispense equal and fair justice without anyone losing their position, their stars, birds, or bars.

Read more here:

Don't Stand In The Doorway

Determined to fight on, Senator Gillibrand knows that in order for her bill to pass she needs at least 60 votes to make the change of how justice is dispensed in the ranks. The MJIA has been called "controversial" by some in the media and on Capitol Hill, for no other reason than it's never been done before. Some high ranking military brass believe it upsets a tradition originally given to George Washington in 1775 by Congress, to maintain "good order and discipline," and to undo that, would undo over two hundred and thirty-five years of history. Do you think the "Father of our Country" had this in mind when he made his request before Congress?

Obviously the great glory of "military order and discipline" could be the "Golden Calf"  of worship that some dance around. They seem to believe the structure founded by General Washington is more sacred than preserving and protecting the troops from harm? I don't think this is what Mr. Washington had in mind.
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo)
There are other bills being proposed at this time as well. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) has written a bill containing more safe reforms. Commander accountability would be increased, survivors could challenge an unfair discharge from the military, and good military character would no longer be considered a defense. The McCaskill bill is not considered to be controversial, and has bipartisan support. It will no doubt make many only Capitol Hill happy, because it doesn't make too many waves. But is "easier" what is needed? Will the McCaskill bill only borrow time until the military does a slow drift back toward the rapids of injustice?
"The plan is noncontroversial, enjoys broad bipartisan support, and is expected to be adopted easily whenever it comes up for a vote.  That measure, however, doesn't include one of the most highly sought-after reforms by victim advocates: stripping the chain of command of its power to decide whether-sexual assault cases are prosecuted.  And that's the key switch Gillibrand is pushing for." -National Journal, January 12, 2014
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Undeterred with MJIA
But is the MJIA as controversial as it seems?  In some ways, it's playing catch up with what our own NATO Allies are enforcing across the globe in Australia, Canada, Israel, Germany, the UK.
For some in Congress like Carl Levin, Claire McCaskill, and Lindsey Graham, it's a scary high dive. But for many of those within the American military ranks, it seems the change would be a tremendous pay off.

One of our NATO Allies,  Lt. Gen. David Morrison, chief of staff of the Australian Defense Force took a message of change straight to the troops. Maybe if thing "are a changin" then maybe there should be a message like this one.

"Those who think that it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this Army. Our service has been engaged in continuous operations since 1999, and in its longest war ever in Afghanistan. On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability, now and into the future.  If that does not suit you, then get out!"
So why is it so hard to speak the plain truth and go bare knuckled against unacceptable behavior in our ranks?  Perhaps a lack of plain old "moral cajones" are needed.  I won't elaborate. You get my drift.
Perhaps real change means some controversy is needed. The plain old guts to say, "this is wrong, we're not going allow this to keep happening."

The good news in all of this is, that we still have time to get petitions going, make calls to our Senators, Congressmen, and Representatives. We need to do it for those in the ranks right now, and for those kids, who want to serve in the future. Perhaps it will be your child, grandchild or someone you know. It's only controversial not because it's wrong, but because we dare not try it. 

A special thank you to Barbara Jackson (on Twitter @Nyota_nura ) for keeping me in the loop on the latest with the MJIA Thanks for your tweets Barbara!
Other Sources:
Navy Times- Navy's Acting No. 2 Official Forced Out
The News Tribune- Sex Assault Latest Target For Military Trailblazer
National JournalKirsten Gillibrand Struggling in Her Fight Over Military Sexual Assault

Read more here:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

If You Want To Sing Out

It's not easy to swim upstream against a tide of haters, and destructive talk on the web. Sometimes it can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But I try to remember the lyrics to a Cats Stevens song.
"If you want to sing out, sing out, and if you want to be free be free,
Cause there's a million things to be, You know that there are.."

I try to avoid reading the comment sections of most blogs and news stories. Not that I disregard the everyday man's thoughts, but because many of the comments can be outrageous, and shocking. People interject nonsense into a thread discussion, very well knowing that it will invoke an outraged response from most readers. To me, of course, to joke about sexual assault, or to "shame-blame" the victim disturbs me to no end. In fact, you don't want to try it on this blog, trust me. The Stuebenville early release of one of the young men in the case, no doubt, evoke outrage from some of the public. Giving push-back to the outrage, were some readers whose sympathies fell with the convicted rather than the victim. They voice their thoughts loud and clear. In one article some of the comments seemed to be from the convicted's own peer group and hometown. They rallyied in support of their friend,  and ex football star, with no thought for the victim.

I wonder if some of these know-it-all "rally around the rapist" types could have a "Freaky Friday" experience with an assault victim. A body switch might change their perspective on the aftermath of rape. I'm not advocating that they experience the act itself, but maybe they should know the prison that MST and PTSD encases a man or woman in. Maybe they would realize that you don't treat sexual assault like a skinned knee. It hurts, for awhile, but you just pick yourself up, and move on. Many of these publications become a feeding frenzy for the most vile comments. Accusing the victim of either lying, complaining too much about the incident, or doing something that caused the rape in the first place. I wonder at these so-called bright people who troll the internet to find news like this. What drives them to spew such poisonous thoughts on a comment section of an article. They proclaim they know that rape is such an easy thing to get over. The victim should just stop talking about it. The media should just go away, and not report it. A rapist if convicted can spend as much as 5-7 years in jail or prison. For the record,
Ma'Lik Richmond who was found guilty of rape in the Stuebenville case, only served 9 months of a one-year sentence for committing an adult crime. However PTSD and MST, when brought on by a sexual assault will keep a victim in their own prison for the rest of their lives. The victim does not get to walk away, being exonerated. PTSD and MST, accuses, blames, shames, and condemns a person to thoughts that he or she cannot control. There is no off switch for these thoughts.

A Tale Of Two Victims

So Mr or Miss internet commentator, on this issue do you really know any victims personally? Have you listened to their stories? Maybe a story of rape violence, and an institution that failed to help? An institution that tried to have her arrested when she reported the rape. How about Teri? She was a young enlisted person who trusted an older NCO and friend. That older man attacked her one night and the victim became the accused.
 Terri was beaten and raped by a high ranking NCO. Finger nails and teeth were removed with pliers,  she was cut with a knife by the rapist, paint thinner was poured into her vagina. She reported the incident to her duty officer, who scoffed at her. The second-in-command remarked that her bleeding was from a "bad period." The base commander said that she could spend the rest of her life in prison for reporting this rape. Returning to her apartment she tried to take her life which apparently failed. Then she sought help from the base chaplain who promptly had her arrested for reporting the crime and
for attempting suicide. She was then shipped off to the psych ward of an Air Force facility where it was discovered she was pregnant from the rape. Keri was ordered to have an abortion to get rid of the evidence that there was a rape, and to agree to attend an alcoholics class. The director deemed her not an alcoholic and the Army's last desperate attempt had failed to hide the fact of the rape. So Kerri was given and honorable discharge with borderline personality disorder. She couldn't reenlist.
"I had graduated first in everything in my class. I don't know why they don't want to keep me.---I honestly thought that if I begged enough I could stay..."

Heath enjoyed a good experience in Navy boot camp. This all changed when he reached his first duty station. On his first weekend there he was sexually assaulted by a couple of new friends who took him to New York for a good time. Apparently after Heath passed out from too much to drink, his two new crewmen friends attempted to sexually assault him that weekend. Returning to the ship, the young midshipmen reported the incident to his Master at Arms. He was rebuffed and accused of cooking up the story to try to go home. Nevertheless his supervisor did speak to the two about the incident.
Reporting the incident only elevated the situation.  Now terrorized and afraid of what might happen next, Heath went AWOL to get help. His parents contacted a congressman. But not wishing his parents to be in trouble, Heath stayed on the streets, which eventually got him picked up by the police and landed him in the brig. Some of the same seamen who terrorize Heath were still on ship when he returned. These men continued their reign of terror:  more beatings, sexual assaults, and sodomizing him in the shower with the handle of a toilet bowl cleaner. Eventually Heath went AWOL again. It seemed like the only recourse to him. He was finally separated from the Navy with no benefits.
"I speak out now partially because I'm upset of how I've been treated, also because I don't think that other people that had this happen to them, should stay hidden anymore. I think we all need to speak out."
 Both of these survivors were bright, young, and who wanted to just serve their country. Just like others who wanted to live the American dream. And and now they live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD) or Military Sexual Trauma (MST) plaguing their minds and souls. Maybe a better message to society, to the Armed Forces or any other institution is "Don't Rape!" or Don't "Victim Blame."

When people re-victimize a survivor on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr about rape, it is obvious that our
culture is slowly eroding on what you can do to a person. We blame shift; and practically turn rapist into heroes who got what they wanted, and it's the victims fault or that he/she was too stupid to stop the attack. An article was passed on this week by a follower on Twitter and frankly, the first paragraph scared the hell out of me.
"It's not easy to shock me anymore, but during a recent a conversation with a former female Marine about military rape, I received the shock of my life when she adamantly stated: 'Military rapes are few and far between, and most of these bitches are filing false charges.'
Whoa. It's not that I don't believe false charges are sometimes levied. But to say that rapes are few and far between demonstrates the deep-seated denial currently in place."- Cilla McCain Huff Post January 12, 2014
The author of the Huff post went on to talk about LaVena Johnson whose unsolved death seems to be shrinking in the interest of the public eye and the media. I wonder how someone such as this former female Marine could make such a callous remark like that? Partly it seems that to sympathize with a victim seems to make some people appear weak. So they talk the tough talk, little realizing words re-victimize those who have already suffered. There is an old proverb that says;
"It is one thing for someone to think you are a fool, it is another thing to open your mouth, and remove all doubt."
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland taken after her arrest in Jackson, Miss.,1961

I remember the story of the young students who rode the buses through the south to protesting racial segregation. They were "The Freedom Riders." The fact that young white students joined with black students to take on this dangerous mission was a mystery for me for many years. They were putting themselves in harms way. Along with black students and others they were beaten, arrested, and convicted for inciting violence in 1961. Why do it? They could have lead nice quiet lives away from these situations. Eventually the answer came to me. When you see injustice you must speak out. You don't have to be a certain color, or be the same gender, or be a victim to know when something is wrong. The Freedom Riders rode the buses because they had to take a stand. The issue had it's hooks in the hearts of many of these students and activists like Joan Trumpauer Mulholland. They had no choice. I myself am a freedom rider of sorts. These horrific acts of assault on our servicemen and women, like Terri and Heath, are criminal acts. I have to stand and speak, and sit and blog, to remind the public and the institutions not to blame the victims, but to blame the offenders, and the leaders who chose to ignore these crimes.

So as this year begins I can't but help to be what I am: A Freedom Writer. I pound out my thoughts and beliefs for survivors of sexual assault, MST, PTSD, and violence against women. This can be the year when we push back those destructive voices of guilt-blaming and victim-shaming. The victory belongs to those who will not give up. And who will stand with others to make a difference.

Sources- Terri's Story and Heath's Story- Protect Our Defenders
                Justice For PFC Laverne Johnson?- Huff Post Blog

#Pass MJIA @Twitter

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mind Over Military

As we eagerly await to see what changes will come from the Presidents' signing of a new reform bill on sexual assault, my reservations on this new law doesn't come from the law itself but from the military leadership, and whether that leadership is willing to embrace those changes. Many credible news sources question the ability of this new law to stem the tide of sexual abuse already plaguing the Armed Forces.
It makes me wonder with an institution like the U.S. Military which has been out in front on so many issues in this country, why they are so slow to respond?

The Right, The Wrong, and The Military Way 

In order to make this law work, we must have good law enforcers: men and women who believe that the system should work for everyone. The problem is not the laws, but the mindset of the leadership. When leadership either ignores the problem or is part of the problem, then the law is dead in the water! You won't change the course of the sexual assault epidemic unless you change who is running the show!
Former Army Sgt Rebekah Havrlilla speaking to the Armed Services Sub-Committee meeting said "The hostility isn't even necessarily toward women; the hostility is towards the feminine--- the perception of being  less-than and the perception of being 'weak.'  Even though I was the only female in my unit, I wasn't the only one targeted for abuse. We had 2 other males in my unit that were targeted regularly for sexual harassment and sexual abuse.--- it was not a gender issue, it was a 'we are targeting what we we see as 'less-than.' The mind-set of when you have that mentality, and when you have the leadership that allows it to continue everyday--- it's the kind of culture that allows some of these unit commanders allow to thrive---"
 It's the Culture that many commanders are not in touch with, that does this sort of damage to troops, while they themselves will defend the status quo by saying "we need our authority to stay intact in order to maintain good order and discipline."

Speaking at the Senate Armed Sub Committee “ U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said,  "If I believe that removing commanders from their central role of responsibility in addressing sexual assault would solve these crimes within our ranks, I would be your strongest proponent,---  But making commanders less responsible, less accountable, will not work.” -MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports September 12, 2013

The problem that General Odierno seems to have is understanding that these leaders would still be responsible for their command. What the problem has been is these victims who have wanted to serve their country have been attacked by one individual or (several) and then attacked by the institution which should have been there to advocate for their rights. Many of the leaders say, "Well if they don't report then we can't prosecute." And yet many have been reported. How did those victims fall through the system? How was it that they were called liars, and then diagnosed as borderline personality disordered, and then removed from the military?

"The NCIS Agents assured me "we have never had this much evidence--- they had my clothing where my zipper was broken, and his finger print are on my articles of clothing, they had his DNA on my comforter, they found his DNA inside my rape kit he was still found not guilty" Darchelle

"I went to the 2nd in command--- He just said that I was a slut, and that females had no business in his unit, and I tried to explain to him about my physical wounds and the blood in the vagina, and running down my legs, and he told me,---'perhaps you'll just call it a bad period'---"  Teri

"I reported it, and got told that I was a liar, and told that I just wanted to go back home--- and the Master at Arms to whom I reported it, told me that he would speak with these gentlemen about it, and after he did that my life turned to hell--- I ended up going to the ships doctor--- I was bleeding, he told me it was fine--- probably just hemorrhoids or something, and don't worry about it I don't have to work for the day--- and go back to work the next day." - Heath

This is the picture of good order and discipline. This the situation, the US Armed Forces prides itself on. Apparently, the commanders up the chain of command want to appear to be in charge, but their efforts have not proven to reap a promising military career for servicemen like Darchelle, Teri, or Heath.  Their lives have been broken by their experiences, and we are asked to hope that the new bill for the NDAA will stem the tide of sexual assaults like a magic bullet. 

A Shorter Leash Maybe?

“If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms,”Mr. Obama said. He set Dec. 1 as the deadline for the Pentagon to show “substantial improvements” in sexual assault prevention and response, including military justice. Mr. Obama’s comments came after Congress approved a defense authorization bill that changes how the Pentagon handles rape and other sexual crimes in the ranks. Among the provisions in the bill, signed by the president Thursday, are new legal protections for victims, a bar against commanders overturning jury convictions or reducing sentences and the discharge of military members who have been convicted of sexual crimes.- Washington Post December 28,2013
While giving the president good marks on his decision to not give the top brass a blank check on this thing and walk away, I'm concerned that he want's a report as far off as December 1, 2014. Even as we speak, unless some of the chain of commanders have found a brain, a heart and the nerve from the Land of Oz, the carnage and mishandling of the lives of victims will continue.  In my opinion four quarterly reports would be best. This is a subject that should never leave their thinking.

Kirsten Gillibrand who continues to lead a relentless fight to make sure victims have their own independent access to legal counsel and to a fair trial is uneasy that this review is so far off.
And who can blame her. This is a problem that has been escalating for decades now.

“I do not want to wait another year to enact the one reform survivors have asked for,” she said in a statement reacting to Mr. Obama’s comments. Tough action, not just tough talk, is what’s needed. Washington Post December 28,2013

 "Not all commanders are objective--- Not every single commander necessarily wants women in the force--- Not every single commander believes what a sexual assault is--- not every commander can distinguish between a slap and the ass and a rape---" 
Senator Gillibrand is only proposing what many of our NATO allies have in place. A separate system to try more heinous crimes such as rape and murder. But because of our proud heritage going back to General George Washington, the military chooses to dig it's heels in on this one area of military life. We no longer live in an era of bayonets and muskets, we live in a time that is more sophisticated, and sadly most victims like the ones mentioned earlier might be tempted to think "We have found the enemy. And we are it!"
It's pretty straight forward. And in about 20 years from now, no one will know the difference. And not one top brass general will be "de-fanged" of his ability to lead.

My Reason For What I do

This young lady just joined the Army Air National Guard. I've known Shelbie since she was 16. Now she's 20, confident and wants to make a career in the service to her country. She threw me for a loop when she told me, she was enlisting. Naturally because of some of the horrors I've heard and read about. I saw her around New Year's Eve. She's all happy and confident. Told me stories of basic training, and boot camp. I'm proud and scared for her at the same time. I want her to be alright, and not get discarded like an old thing.
Shelbie is why I write this blog. I write in hope that victory will race ahead of the next victim, and they won't feel hopeless--- their minds filled with images that wont let them sleep. What will Shelbie be like a year from now? This is one matter that I would love to be wrong about.
She is at her first duty station now. And I hope that the changes this year will be enough so that she, and young women and men, will not be broken under an already broken system. I can only hope, maybe pray, and keep on writing.

MSNBC-                      Military chiefs fight for commander control of sexual assault cases
Protect Our Defenders- Military Justice Denied
TPM-                            A Rape and A Slap on The Ass
WWashington Post-      New sexual assault policies for the military may not go far enough

Support The #MJIA On @Twitter

Read more here: