Monday, September 8, 2014


When I was younger,

So much younger than today,
I never needed anybody's help in any way,
But Now these days are gone
I'm not so self assured
Now I've find I've changed my mind
I've opened up the doors

This song plays in my head more these days, perhaps because of the crazy all out war against human decency in America and around the globe. Men, women and children are being assaulted on a seemingly daily basis. And we still wait for justice. Their cries are being drowned out by the backlash of deniers, and shamers. I'm amazed that no matter how much light you bring to a dilemma, some will accuse you of trying to blind them with a false narrative.

L-R CW Sexual Assault victim carries mattress in protest until attacker is expelled 
Sexual assault victim speaks out about her attack which has been ignored by 
Pentagon. Infamous video of CHP officer punching homeless woman. Family
of slain teen grieving of unarmed slaying. Oklahoma officer in custody after 
sexual assault of at least 8 female motorist. Women of Egypt speak out for justice
in a culture that shames and blames them for their own rape.

Some of these issues may have touched you where you are, either through media, social network, or a few of you are actually living in one of these nightmares. I am amazed at some of the reaction by institutions to go into damage-control mode. They either withhold information from the public or give a muddied picture of the facts.

Help Me If You Can

Although the media's attention is focused on other issues for now, The Invisible War continues withing the ranks. On August 29, a dozen people demonstrated outside the gates of Joint Base Lewis
Christine Jones Rape Survivor and Advocate
McChord, Friday afternoon, calling for civilian instead of military trials for those accused of sexual assault in the ranks, as well as allowing victims to report sex crimes to civilian authorities instead of their supervising officers. I've often thought to myself, if you want to find the real solution to problems like this, speak to the victims, not to the institution or bystanders. They know the horrific circumstance and can tell you what is wrong with our broken system, and possibility what is needed to fix the problem.
Christine Jones, an Army Veteran who served in the military for seven years was sexually assaulted twice, and in both cases her attacker was never charged. She was interview by Kings 5 News in Lakewood Washington dressed in fatigues and a painted purple heart on her uniform symbolizing the wounds that were inflicted on her while serving her country. Jones said to the News team,  "They're wounds from my own soldiers. From soldiers I served with," and "I felt like I was going insane," she said. "It ruined my life for five years." Christine also called it "a culture of corruption."
Military members protest sexual assaults: K5 News Washington

And other veterans are calling for reform in the ranks and within the military. It continues to be a military that tries to make reforms within the system while refusing to root out the real problem. The bold proposal by Kirsten Gillibrand to allow civilian authorities to intervene and a resource to victims has been seen as an attempt to strip power away from commanders.

D- Mich Senator Carl Levin
Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, stated in June 2013 : "I do not support removing the authority of Commanders to prosecute sexual assault cases and putting that decision in the hands of military lawyers outside the chain of command as the personnel sub-committee revision would do. I believe that in doing so would weaken our response to sexual assault and actually make it less likely that sexual assaults would be prosecuted. The provision in question would also unwisely remove the power of the commander to prosecute other kinds of serious crime including allegations ranging from homicide to barracks larceny. Removing prosecution decisions from the chain of command will likely weaken our response to sexual assault by taking the responsibility for prosecution away from military commanders who are actually more likely to prosecute, and instead transferring responsibility to military lawyers who are less likely to prosecute."  -Senator Carl Levin: Nixing Commanders Role Could. YouTube June 22, 2013
After sitting through weeks of testimony in 2012 and 2013, I was flabbergasted that many on this committee could not understand that Military commanders were not doing their jobs in preventing  sexual assault in the ranks, and that bringing in qualified lawyers would not mean less justice for victims. Instead Senator Levin proposed a solution that would keep commanders in control, and would move the needle closer towards the marker of zero tolerance for this crime. His proposal would require an automatic review of any decision not to prosecute a sexual assault. It would also make retaliation against a person who reports a sexual assault a federal crime. Both Carl Levin and Chuck Hagel are taking a gentle approach to an outrageous crime against military warriors, and are trying not to upset the military apple cart. They want to afford commanders the respect and dignity of keeping their power to command in the face of a growing crisis. A crisis which affect many servicemen struggling with the affects of this inhuman act.
To me Kirsten Gillibrand remains one of the true blue unvarnished voices for human rights in our Government. She has continued to take on her colleagues about rape.

K. Gillibrand "the victims voices are being heard in this debate not nearly enough." 
"The problem is very clear because the victims have told us what it is. --And I'm just distressed that the victims voices are being heard in this debate not nearly enough. The victims say it is the climate that they fear retaliation. Their commanders are not creating a climate where they feel they can report without being blamed--- being retaliated against--- being marginalized having their careers be over. That is the commanders responsibility. If they are creating a climate of fear and there's retaliation within their ranks they are not maintained in good order and discipline. The victims tell us they do not report because of chain of command. So I disagreed with the statement today and previously that the chain of command at the disposition phase the problem. It's not that their decisions wrong. It's that they are the decider and the victims have said 'I'm not reporting because it's within the chain of command." 
Gillibrand Makes the Case for Military Justice Improvement Act YouTube June 12, 2013
Nichole Bowen Survivor And Advocate
As Kirsten Gillibrand continues to move forward with the fight to get the Military Justice Improvement Act bill voted into law, many men and women like Nichole Bowen (veteran and advocate) with their boots on the ground about this issue continues to speak out from Seattle to Washington DC. Nichole was about 20 years old when she responded to join the Army after the 9-11 attack. Going into Iraq she remembers her initial fear was that of enemy attacks from Iraqi soldiers. Eventually her fears became real, but they were from her band of brothers. Nichole in several interviews said the atmosphere was full of sexual harassment on a daily basis. She was being propositioned by fellow troops to have casual sex. The climate continued to grow. And one night while she was on duty her Sergeant sexually assaulted her. Like many other rape victims Nichole chose to remain silent initially.
Bowen In Iraq
 "I didn't think anything would be done. I also think that if I had someone outside my Chain of Command to report it to--- I would have reported it and if I'd known I would have had an advocated and I would have been kept safe and there wouldn't have been any kind of retaliation--- but that system's still not in place, and that's what the bill (MJIA) originally addressed. In taking the control from the commander that actually would be this the soldier service member supervisor who right now pretty much controls what happens to the victim and to the perpetrator. It's a system that hasn't changed for like 250 years and it doesn't make sense to not change things that aren't working." 
Lady Warrior Project Senate blocks Military Sex Assault bill. YouTube April 13th 2014
 For right now advocates like Nichole are trying to make changes in the culture by connecting with women to make them aware of how the military institution deals with sexual assault through a project called the "Lady Warrior Project." Women are sharing their stories with others in hopes to make a difference, and maybe keep the conversation going. To this blogger, this is needed. We have loud voices of accusation, ridicule, and even ignorance trolling YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, claiming the rape culture is more like "Rape hysteria." (It's unbelievable that apologists and shamers would put those words together.) These trolls take on this issue like it's a video game, where they try to score points by knocking out comments being made by advocates, victims or concerned individuals. There are great videos out there on the subject from people like Chesca Leigh, Laci Green, and others. But avoid scrolling down to comment sections, or feeding the trolls. (Lesson learned)

Help Me If you Can I'm Feeling Down 

Sam Bennett
Men and women don't report rape and sexual assault because of the "shame factor." Sam Bennett CEO of the Women's Campaign fund  says " but having been a rape victim myself--- having been through the the horror that experience the truth of the matter is sexual assault against women is a vastly under-reported pandemic problem for women in this country and a small number of men for spec sexual assault overwhelmingly happens to women and unfortunately, what happens is once you've been assaulted, the first emotion is not anger; the first emotion actually shame and that's why so many sexual assault incidents go unreported."  
Should special prosecutors handle military sexual assaults? YouTube June 13, 2013
And yet men like Chuck Hagel continue to use a gentleman's approach in dealing with this heinous crime that destroys lives. The fear factor among many politicians is that the MJIA bill goes too far in solving this problem, and that we need to be careful in finding a solution.

And We Do Appreciate You Being 'Round

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 Lewis, Michael Matthews, and Jeremiah Arbogast, are also fighting back.

L-R Male Survivors turned Advocates: Brian Lewis US Navy,
Michael Matthews USAF, and Jeremiah Arbogast US Marine Corp
Their stories are in a previous issue (The Sounds of Silence) These men step out of the shadows of shame to confront the enemy of sexual assault and rape. It was robbing them of their confidence as men, their relationships and marriages, and even the will to go on. Michael Matthews a rape survivor was afraid to share his grim story with his wife Geri Lynn, fearing it would be the death knell for their marriage. Instead she became his most fierce advocate and a partner in revealing the silent trauma that men endure. They have produced the documentary "Justice Denied." It's a story that is important because as Brian Lewis has mentioned, "our society doesn't want to accept the fact that men can be raped." These men, and many with their experiences, are turning their fear into a fight for justice. But sadly the stigma of shame and humiliation will haunt our soldiers and veterans unless the voices in Washington DC, and even locally begin to hear the survivors.

Sexual assault and rape in the military is older than Tailhook. It just took the courage of women like Paula Coughlin who refuse to go away to shed light on it. The brazenness of this crime seems to have elevated within the institution of the military, with harassment making the headlines, to all out sex rings on bases like Aberdeen, and even leaders within the chain of command. It makes you wonder with the numbers of sexual assaults being reported if anything is really being accomplished in Congress or the Pentagon. They continue trying programs, activities, and training seminars. They've done it all except for one thing; aggressively prosecute and convict those who commit these acts.
"I think that prosecuting rapists in the military is pretty vital in eradicating rapists in the
Ret. Lt. Paula Coughlin US Navy
military. And I know that almost sounds remedial, but it's what's not happening. Someone who commits a criminal offense in the military like driving drunk or doing drugs, or stealing hand grenades, boom! they go to jail--- get kicked out real quickly, but if you rape a woman or assault a man--- you're okay." 
-The Legacy Of Tailhook: YouTube September 3, 2014

And now as this year is 2/3 completed we have a stymied bill from a Congresswoman that no one wants to touch; that people like Levin and Hagel believe will cause more harm than good. There seems to be no indicators of any real help coming from our government on this issue. And survivors continue to carry the weight of this crime around, not allowing us to forget.
Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University art student, has vowed to carry a
dorm-sized mattress everywhere until her alleged rapist is expelled

With all the injustice going on with major issues like sexual assaults, and violence against men women and children, we help best when we're aware and keep each other informed. Thanks for reading.

NBC K5 News Military members protest sexual assaults 
YouTube- Should special prosecutors handle military sexual assaults?
YouTube- Senator Carl Levin Nixing Commanders Role could...
YouTube- Gillibrand Make Case For MJIA
CNN- Lady Warrior Project Senate blocks Military Sex Assault Bill

Thank You 
All for your encouragement, and for getting me back into the game.
Your feedback is appreciated.