by Laura Tattoo, a civilian friend and support of men and women with
military sexual trauma
Surviving Jeffrey Dahmer
The link above is a story of military sexual assault. Perpetrators are consistently repeat offenders, hunting their prey within the closed system that is the military. When they leave the military for civilian life, they continue their hunt for new victims. Some stay in the military and just get away with it.
One perpetrator was a young Jeffrey Dahmer. The blog above is about one of his victims, Billy, a young man who was his roommate in the military. It is about how the military did not help Billy as well as his amazing journey toward healing. It will give anyone reading it a clear picture of what military sexual assault and its terrible consequences are really about.
The military must find a way to end the epidemic that has become military sexual assault. In 2010, there were 3,158 total reports of sexual assault in the military. The Department of Defense estimates that this number only represents 13.5% of total assaults in 2010, making the total number of military rapes and sexual assaults in excess of 19,000 for 2010; 37% of victims get raped twice and 14% are gang-raped. The list of men who have been raped is longer than that of women due to the fact that more men than women serve. I have personally known men who were raped in the military as part of a racial hate crime. All rape is a hate crime.
The best solution to the problem of military sexual assault is punishment and jail time for all perpetrators. This is far too rare: one in 5 actually sees the inside of a courtroom. Rather the victims themselves are harassed and punished. As long as nothing will happen to you when and if you are caught, why stop? The perpetrators also need to be put on a national mst registry that would be available to the public: men who are convicted of military sexual assault are not placed on the national registry of sex offenders. Thus, our communities, our sons and daughters, are not protected when perpetrators are discharged from service.
I recently learned that what makes mst (ptsd from military sexual assault) more difficult to heal from than other rape has the same etiology as rape vs. incest. As someone who has worked in group settings with women who were sexually assaulted, I saw firsthand that those who had been raped by fathers or brothers had the hardest time with recovery. While I am a rape survivor myself, I feel truly blessed not to have been a victim of incest.
Women and men in the military consider themselves to be a "band of brothers". Many are very proud to be part of the military and may come from military families, enthusiastic to make military service a career. When the commander whom you must report to or the soldier who is your best buddy rapes you, it has very much the same impact as incest.
What makes matters even worse, though, is the fact that the military treats the victim as the offender. First it tells them to shut up. If they don't, a list of 50+ questions must be answered by every victim, set up to make them look like they chose to be raped or that they were committing adultery. This questionnaire is actually used later to prosecute some rape victims.
The sarc program, the military's answer to victim assistance, has no power to direct the military to prosecute. Its prevention program actually focuses on the idea that military personnel will see and know and stop sexual assault in the moment, "buddy to buddy". Predators are much too smart for this; in fact, as with wife beaters, they are hard to spot, often charming and masked as great guys, the life of the party, hard workers, etc.
What is needed is a change of culture in the military system, taking the decision to hand over cases for prosecution away from unit commanders. This has recently been ordered by the Pentagon but it does not take the investigation out of the closed military system. And the military does not like a sexual scandal; it will do anything to avoid it, including silencing victims. Sexual assault scandals go back a long time, including the infamous "Tailhook" scandal investigated by Congress. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tailhook_scandal)
I recently went to a screening of Kirby Dick's new and must-see documentary on military sexual assault called "The Invisible War". During the question-and-answer period following the film, a veteran suggested that one more piece of paper be added to the countless recruitment and sign-up documents. This paper would present the statistics of sexual assault and state that there is a possibility that rape would occur during service. (The courts have deemed over and over that "rape is incidental to military service"!) Then let the recruit sign that paper…
I think this is a brilliant idea. It would give pause to any young person joining today and even more pause to their parents who are often involved in the process. If the military cannot find a better way to prevent sexual assaults and protect the young women and men who are serving our country, at the least, let it say so and let the recruits and their parents decide. Then let the military get those numbers down and show that it does in fact punish perpetrators rather than rewarding them. Most perpetrators are promoted through the ranks in spite of rape allegations.
A group of longtime military members in the audience scoffed at this idea during the discussion. They said that the military, in their case the Coast Guard, is getting much better, that sexual assault and harassment training is mandatory several times per year, and that the recruit will get that information right away at boot camp. "We cannot dissuade good people from joining!" they insisted. "And the majority of us are good people!"
Of course you are. But information presented after joining is too late for future rape victims; they are now locked into a system where their civil rights are taken away and there is little hope of justice. No, I say let young men and women know BEFORE they join; that is the best way to protect them while the military is made to deal with this horror. I sincerely hope that the documentary "The Invisible War" will help in that cause, shaming the military to finally do something about this life-destroying crime that has no place in our military system. It is a brilliant film that puts a human face, human costs on screen. Many of my friends took part in that film; it was a truly emotional experience for me. And it will be for anyone who sees it.
If you need anyone to talk to about mst, I am here, and so are thousands of other men and women who are experiencing many of the same issues as you. Reach out and grab a hand! You are not alone. The truth will, in fact, set you free.
Surviving Jeffrey Dahmer
The Invisible War documentary
Resource referral for men and women with mst