Sunday, April 13, 2014

Smiling Faces Part 2

Former Mayor Bob Filer
The truth is in the eye.
Cause the eyes don't lie, amen.
Remember a smile is just,
A frown turned upside down,
My friend let me tell you.

Many of you remember the smiling face of  San Diego ex-Mayor; Bob Filner. It was sad that a 10-year term Congressman would only complete 9 months of a 4-year term. Filner was brought down by the scandal that ranged from unwanted sexual advances to sexual battery. One by one these women seemed to come out of nowhere to accuse him. First his own communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson confronts Filner at a staff meeting about unwanted sexual advances, and the accusations ended with about 19 other women who were either touched, cornered or had lewd suggestions made to them by one the most powerful figures in San Diego. The Mayor of course tried to deny the accusations, but then Donna Frye, a former city Councilwoman and former Filner aide, called for the mayor to resign, followed by his fiancee calling off their engagement because of Filner sending sexually explicit messages to other women.
Bob Filner attempted every avenue that he knew including a public apology to a self imposed therapy
Mayor Filner Barred From Hooters
 group to help him with his compulsive behavior. But with key people from Washington, DC, down to Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstien from CA calling for his resignation, and being barred from such establishments as Hooters. That's pretty sad, when you know you're not wanted at a famous eatery. Eventually the Mayor was forced to resign in humiliation and disgrace which was his to own.

Beware Of The Handshake

*Caution: The following stories may contain trigger words

Among his accusers of behaving badly was Army Veteran, Geri Tindley. 

Gerri Tindley Harassed By The Mayor
Army veteran Gerri Tindley says Filner got too close to her at a National Women's Veterans Association of America event where she gave a speech about being raped, which she said happened during her eight years of service. Tindley said she felt uncomfortable as Filner moved closer and closer -- so close, she said, that she nearly fell off the couch trying to move away from him.  San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's accusers CNN.Com 

What is even more sad that this Army Veteran came to a gathering where she shared her story of being victimized in the military, only to have it happen again by a smiling face of leadership.  When Vets looking for healing and re-connection have it happen again after they separated from their military, we need to be wary.

The reality is veterans such as Victoria Sanders knows all too well what struggling with MST and PTSD is like to live with on a daily basis.

PFC Victoria Sanders 1975
A young female PFC stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, was order into a crowded hall, and then in a few steps, 3 men surrounded her, backing her into a room. She heard the sliding metal door slam shut, followed by the click of a padlock. Two of the men stood outside to keep watch. Victoria Sanders was shoved down into a pile of tents and raped. The attack was horrific enough, but the events to follow proved even more damaging. Especially when after she reported the rape, she was ridiculed and harassed by others within the ranks. These crude young men on the base whistled and exposed their shortcomings to her, yelling out what she could do for them. The worst that this poor excuse for a man got was an article 15. I know in the military that you can get a punishment like that for just stepping on an officer's shoe, or failing to pass inspection. A fine exchange for the living hell he put her through. For the next 40 years, Victoria would endure the manifestations of PTSD brought on by the attack.

Today Victoria Sanders is a PTSD Survivor and Advocate
"The PTSD symptoms can be completely debilitating and that's what happen to me. I had flashbacks, nightmares, I had emotional numbing, I was detached--- I had no interest in normal activities--- no feeling like there was a future. I was always looking out for danger, I had outbursts of anger, and sometimes still do. But even physical symptoms like anxiety, dizziness, fainting, feeling like your heart is just gonna beat out if your chest, headaches, and even fibromyalgia I found was a symptom a PTSD.
When a woman was raped very close to my front door it caused my trauma to become full-blown PTSD--that was in 2004."
 Victoria Sanders

Beware Of The Pat on The Back

Pvt. Kate Weber in 1993 
Kate Weber, a bright young perky young woman, joined the Army in 1993. She wanted to serve her country, and as she would later testify, "This was after Tailhook, so I thought the problems had been fixed... I felt safe."  She was deployed overseas to Nuremberg, Germany.  

"I had not yet received my paycheck from the Army, so my Staff Sergeant took me to the finance office to talk to a male Specialist about my paycheck. The Specialist and I made small talk, such as he is from the same town that I am. "---Small world, I thought," and I felt I had made a new friend. That evening, I went to a “club” in the larger city of Nuremberg after being invited by some people in my unit. The Specialist from earlier in the day was at this club with his wife. We said hello. After about an hour, he asked me to come outside with him because he needed to tell me something about my paycheck. He walked me to the side of the building and up three stories of a fire escape. I began to sit on a step and he stopped me and began to kiss me. I resisted and he turned me around, aggressively kicked my legs apart, and began to force himself on me. I could not breathe because he had bent me over the iron railing, and the railing was pressing against my diaphragm. I found an opportunity to push away and run down the fire escape back to safety, but he grabbed me and threw me onto the stairs. I saw no other alternative than to try to climb over the railing to get away, but before I could, he pushed me. I fell all the way down and woke up what seemed like a few minutes later. I grabbed the back of my skirt and quickly got into a taxi. " -Protect Our Defenders Kate Weber Story
Kate Weber: The Face of Advocacy for Veterans

 Kate's life continued to spiral down into a living hell. She suffered from a severe back injury from the attack. The rapist was considered a nice guy, and no one could ever think of him raping a woman. Her so-called "Battle Buddy" gave her perpetrator a heads-up that Kate was going to blow the whistle on him to the chain of command. And like the classic military sexual assault victim, no one believed her. She was not treated for her rape. and after only twenty months of active duty. she was medically discharged for having a weight control problem. After battling forward to overcome weight gain, a drug addiction problem (caused by VA prescribed pain meds) Kate has begun to work on and, overcome the trauma she suffered from the initial rape until last year. She joined other advocacy groups, plus became an important player in the documentary, "The Invisible War." Years later, after overcoming her addiction to pain meds, Kate had a strange encounter at her local VA.

A picture of a Patch in the office
of VA office in Sonoma CA
"I went into the Veterans Service office in my county which is Sonoma County-- and I wanted to go see what MST survivors were being given to make them feel comfortable opening up about something they were denied when they were active duty. ---And when I went into the VSO's office I spoke to the man in charge, and we had a nice conversation and he had me convinced that he was hiring other females and that MST is not handled any differently than any other claims and there was no reason to have somebody specifically trained to handle in writing out the trauma.---He kinda sold me. and I thought that they did and then he left me in the office for a minute I stood up and I looked around the office--- and I found a patch on his wall and I will share it with you all and it was a patch that said 'Tailhook I wasn't there I didn't see a thing.' and it's a picture Bart Simpson and a woman running away from him. And I took a picture--- That all I could do--- that was my reaction. I was like; 'No way!' Because now that I was sober--- I've then really immersing myself in this culture that exists and it's rolling over from the military community, into the veteran community." Kate Weber

A Smile Is Just A Frown

I wonder what the creators of the Simpsons would say about the illegal use of their character for misogynistic purposes? The decor was removed, but not before female Vets saw it. And perhaps they thought, "I can't escape that sort of mentality even in the VA's office!" Can you imagine how someone could be so clueless to have this iconic mockery hanging in a place that is suppose to assist the Veterans community? This may be a warning that there is still much more work to do even beyond the walls of the military. And that sensitivity training is definitely needed.

Both Victoria and Kate are trying to brave the storms of ignorance and destruction, that are being visited on other Vets, without further scaring their own souls. I thank God that they care enough to deal with these issues at a grass roots level. Ironically they do it voluntarily, while the big guns in the military, Pentagon, and other institutions are claiming with smiling faces that the situation is being taken care of, and that Zero tolerance is working in 2014. 
"But in the meantime I'm not sure if it's still helping my healing, because I keep watching
Smiling Faces Sometimes Leaves Knives
the numbers go up and I keep attending hearings in Washington and nothing's happening and my heart's breaking and its re-injuring me and I would really love to be able to have some intimacy and joy in my life again and once I can stop worrying about the young people serving our country I feel like I'm gonna have some peace; might even take a vacation." -Kate Weber 
If we could use the theories, of the military justice Improvement Act-- Take the reporting out at the Chain of Command-- make county and city rape crisis centers the point of contact for those units. ---Work with local resources, ---find people who can support these members who cannot be transferred away from their predators, giving them Victim's Council and support teams to help them with any upcoming legal actions. In general having state oversight over this problem. We don't have to wait for Washington DC to act in order to fix this problem." -Victoria Sanders
Sources: CNN.Com 
Protect Our Defenders

Special Thanks To:
Kate Weber
Victoria Sanders

Coming soon is a very important film that could change your thinking of how sexual assault in our society and across the globe is dealt with.

Israeli beauty queen, Linor Abargil was abducted and raped in Milan, Italy two months before being crowned Miss World in 1998. Ten years later, she’s ready to talk about it – and to encourage others to speak out. Now a globe-trotting victims’ advocate, Linor encourages others to stand against sexual violence by putting an end to their silence. She travels to speak with teens in South Africa, where girls
are statistically more likely to be raped than educated. She visits U.S. college campuses where women describe a campus culture that fails to take assaults seriously. From rape crisis centers worldwide, to Hollywood’s living rooms, Linor is met with emotional support, but the advocacy work causes her own trauma to resurface.