Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Point

The Pointless Oblio makes a point "Everyone's got 'em"

This is the town, and these are the people                    

This is the town where the people all stay

This is town and these are the people

That's the way they wanted it

That's the way its going to stay

Creative music maverick, Harry Nilsson wrote and composed this album CD which eventually became a London musical, and an ABC prime time animated movie. In this simple but pointed story in the land of "Point" a round-headed colorless but cheerful child, Oblio is born. He and his dog Arrow get the best of the evil Count's son in a child's game. Out of revenge, the Count puts Oblio on trial for being different, and banishes him to the Pointless Forrest for having no point. (A crime in the land.) This is a cute child's story set to music by Nilsson illustrating that societies work hard at keeping the status quo, and when something or someone comes along who appears different, they become a threat which must be dealt with. In the musical, and movie we see that the loud point of view by the Count, and his bully son is heeded, and the townspeople just stand by and allow this little boy and his dog Arrow (who was accused of sedition and being a traitor) to be banished. The Point- 1971- YouTube

Can You Hear Me?

Jennifer Hlad a reporter for Stars and Stripes, published a story on the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel which was charged to review the proposed bill written by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. (D-NY) The committee appointed by Chuck Hagel, found that the Military Justice Improvement Act would not reduce the number in sexual assaults, nor would it help to increase reporting of sexual assaults.

"The panel “heard testimony from a number of victims” indicating that it is “often subordinate leaders who perpetrated the sexual assault itself, ignored it when it was reported, or engaged in retaliation towards the victim afterwards,” according to the panel’s report to Congress; however, seven of the nine panel members agreed that removing prosecution authority from the chain of command would not reduce the number of sexual assaults, increase reporting of crimes or improve the quality of investigations and prosecutions, according to the report."
This panel heard testimony from victims of sexual assault who gave testimony that their leaders were either in the direct chain of command either ignored their reports or were involved in either the assaults, threats and retaliation against them. Now while I cannot get into the head of each person on the panel itself, one glaring thing to point out is that this panel was put together by
 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who opposes the Military Justice Improvement Act. Both he and members of Congress have cited the Gillibrand bill as being radial overkill to something that could be resolved some other way. So in other words, there was no doubt this panel was there to show they had given careful consideration to whether the MJIA could be a solution to the Rape in the Military dilemma crisis. So many Veterans still carry the deep scars inflicted on this American institution. And some have been compelled to go to Washington on at least 2 occasions and have their stories told before this panel.

Are You Sleeping? 

Warning: Story May Contain Trigger Words
Ginny Lee from Little Rock, Arkansas, whom I've had the privilege to speak to about this problem shares her story with the panel.
"I knew when I was a little girl taking care of my mom just after she had
Survivor Ginny Lee Testifies before panel
broken her back, that I wanted to be a registered nurse. I spent my school career going towards that goal being a registered nurse. In my senior year in high school, our country was attacked over seas. Libya bombed a popular GI bar hangout in Frankfurt Germany--- President Reagan responded swiftly, and with the least amount of casualties possible, and taught me that I wanted to be a soldier too--- so that I could combine 2 dreams into 1. I could enlist--- become a nurse--- an officer, and make a career out of it. Those dreams started to be swiftly taken away from me. My second week in basic training, I had become sick from all the immunizations, and my drill sergeant, who was often under the influence of alcohol (more that he was sober), said that I had to be isolated because my fellow recruits said that I was keeping them awake with my coughing. In the middle of the night I could feel a hand touch my head as if feeling for fever." 
Ginny Lee- Military Sexual Assault Crimes Response Panel. January 30, 2014
In Ginny's sleepy state she felt as though it was her dad, until that hand moved to other parts of her body. And of course when she realized what was going on, Ginny struggled  against her assailant. Her drill sergeant responded with a forearm pressure to Ginny's chest, neck and throat, cutting off her ability to cry out for help.

"He told me if I quit fighting, I wouldn't be hurt. I kept fighting for awhile, and I realized he had far more strength than I did.--- When he was done--- he told me to go and clean up, and put on other clothes, and report back to my bunk. The next morning I had bruises on my neck--- on my arms--- on my chest--- on the inside of my legs, and my knees, ---but I remember his threat--- he told me if I dared to say anything, I would end up like the girl in the cycle before us. ---I would be dead.  
Ginny Lee- Military Sexual Assault Crimes Response Panel. January 30, 2014
For the next 7 weeks of basic training with those words ringing in this young recruit's mind, Ginny persevered through the physical trials that the other recruits did, with the exception of having a urinary tract infection, (which began the night of the rape) and the fear that the assault might be repeated. To make things worse the fear of being pregnant set in when she didn't have her period. (The later can be brought on by the physical endurance of basic training.) When she thought she might be requested, she went to sick call. The attendants treated her infection, and explained that physical excretion was no doubt the reason for her delayed ministerial cycle. You can imagine the relief she must have felt at least of that news. But undoubtedly her movements were being closely monitored by her drill sergeant/assailant.
"That night my drill sergeant--- drunk again, came after me and yank me from the bottom bunk by the collar of my bdu's. He threw me against the brick wall, destroying my shoulder. My female drill sergeant heard the noise--- ran upstairs--- saw me pinned against the wall--- and her only reaction was 'oh shit!' and walked back down the stairs. I was then summoned to her office and told that if I even dare speak of either incident--- that it would be my word against theirs--- and there would be more punishment to come. 
Ginny Lee- Military Sexual Assault Crimes Response Panel. January 30, 2014
The next day Ginny, not realizing the extent of her injuries from the attack the prior night tried to do
Private Ginny Lee 
her PT (physical training) regimen. But with the first push-up she was rendered incapacitated. With that she was taken to sick-call, with instructions from her drill sergeants, to say that her dislocated shoulder was due to her routine work-out. Obviously the attendants did not question the private's explanation, even when she had bruises on her hips from her rough treatment from her drill sergeant. No support was there for Ginny Lee even from her parents, who told her to 'act as if it didn't happen' and get through boot camp without saying a word to anyone. However Lee had a different resolve, and that was to tell someone. During her orthopedic exam she attempted to share with the doctor how she really received her injuries. Her words were not documented, but was referred to social works counseling. She was never allowed to go. She decided that her best recourse was to move forward with orders to Germany.
"When I got to Germany, no one knew what had happen to me.---Until one day I was working on the base post office by myself--- and I was looking out the window--- just day dreaming. A patron walked in, and all it took was five words, and I knew it was him. I picked up everything I could to throw at him. ---First thing was a tape dispenser, next thing was a stapler. The whole time I was screaming for anyone to come. Instead of being the happy-go-lucky person I was for the first year and a half in Germany--- I changed.---I cried at the drop of a dime--- or it could have been a look.--- My Ex-O (executive officer) finally got me to talk about it.---and I told her what happen. She of course did what she thought she needed to do, and that was to take it to the top First Sergeant, and her Captain." 
Ginny Lee- Military Sexual Assault Crimes Response Panel. January 30, 2014

Think About Your Troubles 

 And of course Ginny's career ended like all other servicemen and servicewomen's careers, when they decided to give her a medical discharged. In Ginny's case both collar bones had been dislocated from both sockets, thus making it impossible to run or exert herself in any fashion without her airway being crushed. With surgery being the only option to correct the problem, (removing a inch from her shoulder) she wasn't able to use her firing shoulder. So basically this young woman who wanted so desperately to fight for her country and have her dreams of nursing fulfilled was told that if she couldn't fire a weapon, she couldn't be a soldier. In one more desperate attempt to get someone to listen to her story, in filling out her medical separation forms, she requested a medical review hearing with at least one woman on the panel. But the military wheels of damaged control did not grind slowly in her case. Her discharge papers came within 30 days. The papers had been pencil whipped, signed sealed and delivered. The pencil whipped orders excluded her request to have a medical review board hear her case.
Oblio is Banished
"Mysteriously a telephonic (photo copied) form showed up in my files saying I agreed not to go and testify in front of  the medical review board. ---They just wanted me out. Everything about the military I loved--- going up drag ass hills didn't bother me at Fort Jackson, South Carolina--- running twelve miles didn't bother me--- the long nights, cold nights, wet nights--- none of that bothered me. Because when I came in I thought I was going to be part of a team--- a family--- with brothers and sisters in arms that would have my back--- and I would have theirs.--- and I believed that all the way through my chain of command.---" 
Ginny Lee- Military Sexual Assault Crimes Response Panel. January 30, 2014
"A Point In every direction is the same
as no point at all"
Just like Oblio who was ejected from the land and was banished, Ginny's attack seemed to make her a person without a point. She was turned out for being another sexual assault victim. Her Pointless Forest has been full of nightmares, elevating PTSD, and the loss of four marriages and an ongoing battle with the Veterans Administration for her benefits. Like many veteran survivors, she has been pointed in many directions for answers, but like the original pointless man reminds us, "A point in every direction, is the same as no point at all." Looking for answers everywhere but finding very little to no help, and surrounded by townsfolk's who can't understand or they are part of a broken system that has the same old answers that make you hurry up and wait.

Now to be fair, it was as obvious to Ginny and other advocates who came and spoke, some panel members were moved by the words and stories each survivor told on both occasions in January and May of this year. But it was not enough to make a significant difference. In their report on examining the problem, they ruled out the Military Justice Improvement Act as away to counter the epidemic of sexual assaults of both men and women in the military.
Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel 2014
Congress should not remove court-martial convening authority from the chain of command, a nine-member panel appointed to study how the military investigates, prosecutes and punishes sexual assault crimes said in its report.
Sadly tradition sprinkled with some new ideas and suggestions were the order of the panel. Some suggestions were sound ones, while other seemed like they were leading to more investigations and research into the issue of the problem, and not attacking the issue of dealing with perpetrators, or issuing tough sentences for these crimes. Even in the face of powerful statements from advocates like Ginny who stated :
 "Commander's don't know the protocols. They don't know how to take pictures--- to see tears in the cervix--- or to comb for evidence, or to look under fingernails for scrapings that can prove a case. Commanders are trained to get US troops ready to go to war, not to go to court."
Ret. Attorney Harvey Bryant 
Professor Elizabeth L. Hillman, 
It was a 9-7 decision on this pointless panel with two descending votes. Harvey Bryant  retired Virginia Beach, VA, Commonwealth’s Attorney, and Professor Elizabeth L. Hillman, Hastings College of the Law Provost and Academic Dean, dissented. Hillman wrote "I believe we should vest discretionary authority to prosecute rape and sexual assault in the same people on whom federal, state, and many respected military criminal justice systems rely: trained, experienced prosecutors."

Ginny also said "we had one more vote for "us" in May than we did when we started. So I believe we're making a difference." While that can't be denied, those who fail to prosecute alleged perps, give men and women better access to judicial advocates, makes as much sense as buying new deck furniture for a sinking ship. It's just not effective.

And why not implement the MJIA? We've tried everything else. It won't take commanders from
responsibility. So what are we afraid of?
It's been seven months now since the MJIA was blocked for a vote. The reports have rise by 50 per cent. And we've developed Sexual Assault Key Chains, and Battle Buddy Apps for your iPhones. The McCaskill Bill (that was considered to be better than MJIA) still is in limbo. And so where are we really?
The "feel-good story" of the Point simply shows that those who try to bar others from contributing to our society, while telling them they have no point, are really the pointless ones. They develop causes and cases, and do research, while the solution is a clear one. Don't Rape. And That is the real point.

Stars And Stripes- Sexual assault panel: Keep prosecutions in chain of command

Special Thanks 
Ginny Lee- Thanks for sharing my friend. Love your advocacy for both men and women
Rosie Pafly and Vera Santa Clara for your relentless reporting and research