Miss New York named Miss America for third year in a row

Kira Kazantsev was crowned Miss America 2015 Sunday night at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. The graduate of Hofstra University beat the competition with her unusual talent — singing Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ while banging a plastic cup on the stage — and her answer to the question of what issue women in the U.S. Senate should press upon their male colleagues.


Published: Sunday, September 14, 2014, 11:23 PM |  Updated: Monday, September 15, 2014, 1:06 AM

New York’s cup runneth over — again.

Miss New York was crowned Miss America 2015 Sunday night, marking the third year in a row that the nation’s pageant winner hails from the Empire State.

Kira Kazantsev, 23, of Manhattan, won the beauty pageant in Atlantic City after singing Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy” while banging a plastic red cup and seated on the stage cross-legged.

Outgoing Miss America Nina Davuluri sealed the New York three-peat by passing on her jeweled crown to the emotional Kazantsev, who strutted the stage to the iconic tune, “There she is, Miss America.”

Kazantsev, a graduate of Hofstra University, scored the victory with brains, beauty and her unusual talent.

In the all-important question category, which counted for 30% of the total score, Kazantsev was asked what issue women in the U.S. Senate should press upon their male colleagues.

“I really believe that sexual assault in our military is an issue these women have got to fight for,” answered Kazantsev, whose platform is raising awareness of domestic violence.

She beat out Miss Virginia Courtney Paige Garrett for the crown and a $50,000 scholarship.

The pageant was broadcast live on ABC from Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.

Kazantsev may be the first contestant to win the contest by playing a plastic cup on stage, topping rivals who sang, dance, played the piano, and even one, Miss Ohio, who performed ventriloquism while singing.

This year’s outcome was a replay of last year’s, when Davuluri was presented the crown from Miss America 2013, the former Miss New York Mallory Hagan.

Hagan, who was raised in Alabama, was living in Brooklyn when she won.

Prior to Hagan’s victory, a Miss New York hadn’t won the contest since Vanessa Williams was crowned in 1984. But Williams was forced to give up her title when Penthouse magazine published nude photos of her.

Rounding out the final five contestants Sunday night were Miss Arkansas Jo Campbell, Miss Florida Victoria Cowen and Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn.

Originally from California, Kazantsev moved to New York to attend Hofstra, where she majored in political science, global studies and geography.

She’s already been accepted to attend Fordham University Law School.

In addition to playing a cup, she speaks three three languages fluently — Russian, Spanish and English.

A survivor of abuse, Kazantsev recently spoke out in support of Janay Rice for marrying former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after he punched her out in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

“I want people to stop asking, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’” she told NPR. “Every woman is an expert in her own case, and there are so many extenuating circumstances that lead to a woman staying with her abuser.”

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“Son, Men Don’t Get Raped”

GQ Aug/Sept 2014 Graphic


Sexual assault is alarmingly common in the U.S. military, and more than half of the victims are men. According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day. These are the stories you never hear—because the culprits almost always go free, the survivors rarely speak, and no one in the military or Congress has done enough to stop it.

A WARSHIPis like a city—sprawling, vital, crowded with purposeful men and women. But on a warship, as in a city, there are people who will see you not as their friend or their neighbor but rather as their prey.

After turning 25, Steve Stovey joined the Navy to see the world: Malaysia, Australia, Japan, Fiji, the Persian Gulf. His first year and a half as a signalman on the USS Gary was "the greatest time of my life," he says.

In late September 1999, Stovey was sailing to Hawaii, where he'd be joined by his father on a Tiger Cruise, a beloved Navy tradition in which family members accompany sailors on the final leg of a deployment. Parents and kids get to see how sailors live and work; they watch the crew test air and sea weapons. The Disney Channel even made a movie about a Tiger Cruise, with Bill Pullman and Hayden Panettiere. The West Coast itinerary is usually Pearl Harbor to San Diego.

On the morning of September 20, two weeks before the warship was due in port, three men ambushed Stovey in a remote storage area of the ship, where he'd been sent to get supplies. They threw a black hood over his head, strangled and sodomized him, then left him for dead on a stack of boxes. Stovey told no one. He was certain that his attackers, whose faces he hadn't glimpsed, would kill him if he did. He hid in a bathroom until he could contain his panic and tolerate the pain. Then he quietly returned to his post.

Stovey says he might have killed himself were it not for his father's imminent arrival. The timing of the visit was "almost a miracle," he says. "When I saw him, it was the most safe feeling I'd ever felt in my whole life."

Father and son spent the next five days on board ship, almost certainly being watched by the three attackers. "I just kept it inside," Stovey says in a low voice. "I couldn't tell him."



The moment a man enlists in the United States armed forces, his chances of being sexually assaulted increase by a factor of ten. Women, of course, are much more likely to be victims of military sexual trauma (MST), but far fewer of them enlist. In fact, more military men are assaulted than women—nearly 14,000 in 2012 alone. Prior to the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" in 2011, male-on-male-rape victims could actually be discharged for having engaged in homosexual conduct. That's no longer the case—but the numbers show that men are still afraid to report being sexually assaulted.

Military culture is built upon a tenuous balance of aggression and obedience. The potential for sexual violence exists whenever there is too much of either. New recruits, stripped of their free will, cannot question authority. A certain kind of officer demands sex from underlings in the same way he demands they pick up his laundry. A certain kind of recruit rapes his peer in a sick mimicry of the power structure: I own you totally. "One of the myths is that the perpetrators identify as gay, which is by and large not the case," says James Asbrand, a psychologist with the Salt Lake City VA's PTSD clinical team. "It's not about the sex. It's about power and control."

To understand this problem and why it persists twenty-two years after the Tailhook scandal, GQ interviewed military officials, mental-health professionals, and policy-makers, as well as twenty-three men who are survivors not only of MST but also of a bureaucracy that has failed to protect them.

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The part that I remember before I passed out was somebody saying they were going to teach me a lesson.


I was coming in and out of consciousness. He kept saying, "You're going to like this."


I heard one of them say, "Get that broom over there by the lockers."


At first I thought he was playing around. He managed to wrestle me onto my back, and I started freaking out. He pinned my arm above my head and my knee in the crook of his arm and covered my mouth with his right hand and looked at me and said, "You will not make a noise."


When a gunnery sergeant tells you to take off your clothes, you better take off your clothes. You don't ask questions.


The way we socialize people probably has some effect on the incidents. We cut your hair, and we give you the same clothes, and we tell you that you have no more privacy, you have no more individual rights—we're gonna take you down to your bare essence and then rebuild you in our image.


I still don't believe I didn't bring this on. I keep telling myself, If only I hadn't had a few beers that night. If only I hadn't invited him back to my room. I tried to resist. He was just so fucking strong.


There's nothing I could have done, except never have joined the military.


I've told my psychologist, "Maybe it's my fault, because I'm gay." I was looking for friendship, companionship, some kind of emotional connection with somebody. They were predators. They knew what they saw in me that allowed them to be that way.


Afterward they started kicking the shit out of me and said, "If you ever tell anybody, we'll come back and get you." But it was like the angels were singing, because I realized I wasn't going to die. Later I wished I had.


I had actually let the assault go, because I didn't want it to interfere with my career. I wanted to be an officer, and I just said, "Bad experience, won't let that happen again." But there was some residual damage. A month and a half later, I was brought into a room with about nine officers and told, "You've tested positive [for HIV]." I was removed from the military and signed out within a day. It was a complete shock.


There's the fear that "if other people know this about me, well, then, my life is over. No one's gonna want to be around me. They'll know that I'm less of a man."


One of the doctors said to me afterward, "Son, men don't get raped."


I'm gonna have to cut this short. I'm not gonna be able to do this interview. This is really causing some flashbacks and triggers. I'm already having a panic attack. You're asking some serious questions, and I'd rather just cancel it here.

* Name changed.



An overpowering shame prevents many enlisted men from reporting an assault—a sense that they must somehow be complicit in what has happened to them. Straight men often question their own sexual orientation, while gay men may struggle to find intimacy in relationships because they don't trust other men (or their own judgment). Telling the secret ruptures families and friendships. So does not telling.

The rape of a male soldier has a particular symbolism. "In a hypermasculine culture, what's the worst thing you can do to another man? Force him into what the culture perceives as a feminine role," says Asbrand of the Salt Lake City VA. "Completely dominate and rape him."

But shame isn't the only reason these men so often say nothing. Another is fear—of physical retaliation, professional ruin, social stigma. Research suggests that the military brass may have conspired to illegally discharge MST victims by falsely diagnosing them with personality disorders. "The military has a systemic personality disorder discharge problem," write the authors of a 2012 Yale Law School white paper. Between 2001 and 2010, some 31,000 servicepersons were involuntarily discharged for personality disorders. It is likely that in many cases these were sham diagnoses meant to rid the ranks of MST victims. "If they want you to be schizophrenic," says Trent Smith, an MST survivor currently fighting his discharge from the Air Force, "you're schizophrenic." These diagnoses also spare the government the costs of aftercare: The VA considers a personality disorder to be a pre-existing condition, so it won't cover the expense of treatment for PTSD caused by a sexual assault.

Above all, MST victims keep quiet because they do not believe their attackers will be punished. And they're almost certainly right. The conviction rate in MST cases that go to trial is just 7 percent. An estimated 81 percent of male MST victims never report being attacked. Perhaps it should astonish us that any of them do.

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I guess I feel okay telling you because you don't know who in the hell I am, and I don't know who you are, and you can't see me.


I wasn't "afraid" to report it—I was ashamed and disgusted. Guys aren't supposed to be raped. I didn't want to tell anybody about it. I didn't want to say anything.


I didn't talk about this for nearly fifty years.


He was a senior aide—he had a direct line to the top. Being invited over to his house, I just took it as I should go. Looking back, I ask myself, Why didn't you do anything? It wasn't like he held me down or tied me up. I didn't want to cross him. I really didn't feel like I had any choice. I had just turned 19. It could be my career. I froze and went along with it.


Hell no, I didn't report this. Who was I going to report it to? He had serious rank over me. After they ordered me to return to work with him, I stabbed myself in the neck so I could go home.


No commanding officer wants to have to pick up the phone to his or her boss and say, "I've had a sexual assault aboard my command."


That's basically admitting that you can't control your men.


[Let's say] I'm a company commander and I've got this sergeant first class who's done a great job of getting my company ready for combat. Then this private I don't know from Adam comes in and says, "Sergeant X assaulted me last night." I don't believe that private. I don't want to believe that private. I can't imagine that Sergeant X would do such a thing. Is there a natural bias that would say, "Can I make this go away?" That's probably a very typical reaction.


I was starting to hallucinate that people were coming to get me. I barricaded myself in my room in the barracks because I heard a key in the lock and thought they were coming in. It was my roommate, but I was screaming, "Don't hurt me!" They took me to the hospital, and that's where I finally told the psychiatrist what had happened. It was a huge mistake. I was put into a mental ward out of One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. The doctor would say, "You enjoyed it, didn't you? Come on, tell me the truth."


I have very little memory of my time in the psychiatric ward, because I was so heavily drugged. I stopped eating. I became suicidal, and I made three attempts. They gave me shock treatments against my will. The diagnosis was paranoid schizophrenia. I bore that label for forty years before the VA finally admitted they had misdiagnosed me.


There were about seven assaults. I got to the point where I just didn't want to live anymore. Not that I had a plan; I just got reckless, and my command took it as a signal I was suicidal. They said I had "Personality Disorder—Not Otherwise Specified." They said I was being discharged for that.


The discharge for personality disorder—that's a problem. If you've talked to twenty different victims and twelve of them say, "I was discharged for a personality disorder and I was railroaded," I would not deny that in many cases a personality discharge would have been issued. It's not right.



Navy, 1988-89

"The two main guys—their nickname was the Twin Towers. They held themselves like they were God and untouchable. They were both six feet five or above, 250 pounds. I weighed maybe 120 pounds soaking wet. As soon as the Twin Towers came near you, you instantly wanted to pee yourself.

The main attacks were at night. When you're being dragged out of your bunk literally by your ear, you can't fight, because they're doing these funky things with your fingers, twisting them, and they're ripping your mouth open, and then they got another guy that has his fingers in your nose or in your eyes to make you open your mouth. That's what always used to bother me: I'm screaming, yelling, fighting, and nobody is even moving their curtains to look.

I went AWOL; I couldn't take it no more. I tried hanging myself. I was living in the streets, and I got arrested shoplifting, and they sent me to the brig. Then I got sent back to the same berthing area, where they started terrorizing me again. The final straw was, I was taking a shower and these guys beat me up and raped me with a toilet brush. Medical told me I probably had a hemorrhoid. I went AWOL again, then turned myself in a couple of days later. Finally my executive officer came back [proposing] I take an other-than-honorable discharge.

To this day I don't know why they did it, because they had beautiful girlfriends. I just happened to be one of their victims."

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Men develop PTSD from sexual assault at nearly twice the rate they do from combat. Yet as multiple research papers have noted, the condition in men is egregiously understudied. This is because so few men tell anyone. Those who do often wait years; many male participants in therapy groups are veterans of Korea and Vietnam. At Bay Pines' C. W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Florida, the country's first residential facility for men suffering from MST, the average patient is over 50 years old at admission.

Military sexual trauma causes a particularly toxic form of PTSD. The betrayal by a comrade-in-arms, a brother in whom you place unconditional trust, can be unbearable. Warrior culture values stoicism, which encourages a victim to keep his troubles to himself and stigmatizes him if he doesn't. An implacable chain of command sometimes compels a victim to work or sleep alongside an attacker, which can make him feel captive to his suffering and deserving of it.


I'm terrified of men. I'm gay and I'm terrified of men. I can't even get an erection, especially since I got sober. I isolate. I don't go to movies, I can't handle concerts. I have horrid nightmares. Last Christmas, I went to dinner with some friends, and at one point I started panicking so bad I had to get out of the restaurant. I was shaking. I never even told anybody about this until last July. Do you know what it's like to live with this for thirty years?


My first sexual experience ever was being raped by these guys. It screwed me up: That's what sex is supposed to be—anonymous, painful. The nightmares never went away. I started getting really bad with alcohol and an addiction to anonymous sex. Having a relationship with somebody has been extremely difficult.


The hardest thing for me was the fear to be looked at as being gay. I went through a lot of women. I went through several marriages. I wasn't a loyal husband. In college a couple guys brought up to me that they had an opportunity to make some serious money. I became an escort, and I did it for a good eleven years. It erased my thoughts.


I'm afraid to go outside. I hate dealing with people. I hate being in crowds. I go grocery shopping at three in the morning, because there's nobody out. I drive a hundred miles to Walmart to pick up my meds, because one of my friends works there and I can get in and out comfortably.


No supervisor was ever going to have me alone in his office again. If a supervisor was to call me into his office, I was done. I can't tell you how many jobs I went through over the years because of that.


I just couldn't handle working around men. I've done masonry work, but I'd last only a couple weeks. I would have outbursts. Sometimes sexual jokes would trigger me. I'd be like, "Listen, you perverted scumbag..." When things upset me, I yell [my attackers'] names out to people. The guys would just look at you like, This guy is crazy.


Your certificate of discharge, form DD-214, says very clearly your reason for discharge. But if you [tell a prospective employer] the psychiatrist misdiagnosed you, the perception is, "Oh, he's lying. He's a troublemaker, and we don't want to hire him." So you either have to own up to it or you basically don't get a job. You essentially have to tell a prospective employer you were sexually assaulted.


It wasn't until I got my records that I learned about the codes on the DD-214. Employers who offer benefits are not going to hire anyone with a pre-existing condition such as schizophrenia. I've spent many years just spinning my wheels trying to get jobs that I'm not gonna be allowed to get.


To this day, I still cut—arms, legs, stomach—with a hunting knife or a razor blade. It gives me a sense of control, endorphins, relief. The nightmares just play over and over. They're so real I can feel the broomstick going up inside me.


I drank myself crazy and did street drugs—methamphetamine, codeine, morphine. At night I still have four or five drinks of vodka. It helps me relax.


I can turn off my love for a person like a light switch. If my current wife made me distrust her in any way, I could walk out the door and not miss her. My kids told me my head was always in my work. Which was true. I don't feel any loss of not being part of their life.


I'm emotionally numb all the time. I'm not feeling love. I don't feel.


As a man, I can't perform the way I used to. I just feel damaged. All I remember, along with the pain, is the slapping sound of being raped. I try to make love to my wife, but I can't—I'm triggered. I'm traumatized by that sound.

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"In infantry training, I tore ligaments in my ankle. It wasn't a visible injury, so I was accused of faking it. After I was assigned to base, three individuals started singling me out. They would intentionally bump into me. When I was asleep, somebody punched me in the face. A month later, I was pulled out of the shower. They kicked me and beat me with a plunger, and I don't know if I lost consciousness or not, but the next thing I remember is my wrists were taped to the bedframe and they were holding a knife to my throat. Then they took turns sexually assaulting me.

As the company clerk, part of my job was to sort the mail, and I started stealing magazines, Christmas cards: I'm the one that's in charge, you only get your mail when I decide. After the military, I worked undercover security for department stores. I would go in the back room and steal cash before it went in the vault—not just fifty bucks here and there but $2,000 in one night. They couldn't prove it was me, because I'm the one controlling where the cameras go. Later on, working at a small business, I would print up high amounts of postage [on the in-house postage meter] and sell it—over seven years, probably $30,000 worth. I got more daring, and I finally stole a couple checks. I got caught for that and was sentenced to a year in jail. I was able to serve on house arrest, and I sought help from the VA. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The high for me was getting away with it, being in control."

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Men who have been sexually assaulted avoid treatment for the same reason they avoid so much else in their lives: because it makes them feel threatened. "We're asking them to talk about the one thing they'll do anything to keep other people from knowing about them," says Asbrand. The irony is that PTSD is highly treatable, even if the damage it does over time to families and professional lives may not be.

Unfortunately for male victims, the VA's facilities for MST focus largely on women. In fact, the statute that establishes these programs makes mention only of female victims. Interviewees for this story indicate that the quality and availability of outpatient treatment for men is spotty at best. Some men report being denied care altogether.


Come to my VA, they don't have counselors for men. There's no standard across the VA.


The questionnaires are designed for women. They were asking, "How many times were you violated in your vagina?"


You see us in group, it's like we're each individually wrapped in a burlap sack. We don't want to touch anybody. We're all just very leery of each other.


I don't want to discuss in a room full of women how there's nerve damage to my prostate from the attack, and I'm sure they don't really want to discuss their reproductive organs in a room full of men.

Whistle-blowers have alleged that the VA's regional offices routinely destroy veterans' medical records in an effort to escape a massive systemic backlog. Nearly 60,000 new patients have been made to wait ninety days or more since 2004, with some 65,000 others never getting to see a doctor at all. At least twenty-three veterans have died while waiting for care. In May, Eric Shinseki, the head of Veterans Affairs, resigned under pressure.


When I first got out, I tried to seek treatment with the VA. It became an issue where every time I came back, it was a different person; they had interns filling in. Every time, I had to relive telling the story again. It just became too much. It's a joke.


There was a period of years where I wanted to die on a daily basis, every minute of every day. The VA's pill cocktails simply did not work.


I take a handful of Skittles every fucking morning—for the anxiety and the nightmares and the insomnia. Taste the rainbow, dude.


The VA has a real quality problem. They say they have a 90 percent accuracy rate [in processing claims], but we do their quality checks, and the error rate in the last year was over 50 percent. In over 70 percent of all appeals, the board reverses or remands the VA's decisions. No one understands what the VA is doing.


I went to the VA from 1994 to 2010 for severe chronic PTSD due to military sexual trauma. But one day I was denied service, and I'm like, "What the heck?" My VA rep said I had slipped through the cracks—they were never supposed to have seen me in the first place, because I have an other-than-honorable discharge [for repeatedly going AWOL to avoid being attacked]. I go to this lady's office: "You guys are not denying that I was sexually assaulted, but now you're telling me I can't see an MST counselor?" She says, "That's correct."


I've got a PTSD diagnosis from my doctor. I've written my testimony down, filled out the paperwork, and sent it in, and it got denied. It just feels like another betrayal.


I've been turned down several times. There's this wall that says, "That couldn't have happened to you—you're a man."

In March, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York sought to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act, a bill that would strip commanders of the power to determine whether to prosecute sex assaults. The MJIA would instead delegate that power to independent military prosecutors. The bill won a narrow majority in the Senate but fell short of the votes required to beat a promised filibuster.

At the same time, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri offered a competing bill that MST-victim advocates attacked because it seemed to reaffirm the status quo. Worse, it didn't address victims' fears of a Kafkaesque bureaucracy that, to put it mildly, deters reporting. "You know McCaskill's bill ain't gonna work," says MST victim Michael Matthews, "because the Pentagon likes her bill."

For commanders, it's a nuanced matter to decide whether or not to refer a rape case for trial. The decision requires judgment calls about consent. It demands empathy for a victim who has been made to feel profoundly unsoldierlike. It calls for unsparing scrutiny of one's own complicity, because the failure of "good order and discipline"—a canonical 239-year-old military concept—is the commander's own failure. MST-victim advocates argue that people with specialized training should be making these decisions, not commanders.

McCaskill's bill was passed unanimously and currently awaits action in a House sub-committee. Gillibrand has vowed to revive the MJIA later in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of reported sexual assaults rose for a third consecutive year. The Pentagon interprets this to mean that a greater proportion of victims are reporting. Veterans believe it just means there are more victims.

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It's funny. Even people who have the most horrific experience, at some stage in their life—it may take them till they're 75 years old—the best memories of their lives will come back to [their service time]. I can't tell you exactly why. The brotherhood, the camaraderie, goes deeper than the worst trauma.


I can't blame the whole military for what one person did. I liked the structure—having a sense of I knew what I was doing, what my job was going to be. I would go back in a heartbeat, even after everything that happened. I would love to.


I liked the routine. I liked the work. I liked the benefits. I liked the freedom of being young and not under my parents' rules anymore. I wanted to travel and to go up in rank and to store away money for an education when I got out. It only takes twenty years. I wanted to stay in the military.


I just wanted to stay in the Air Force. Being in the Air Force makes me happy. I didn't want him to take that last thing away from me. I feel like this is where I really belong. But obviously it's not an option.



Army, 1976-80

"I was from the Midwest, and they said they hated "Yankees." At night they'd pull the covers over me and beat me with a bar of soap in a sock. They would push me out of my bunk onto the floor. They would mess up my locker during inspection.

One night I was getting ready to go into my room in the barracks when a blanket was put over my head. I heard five different male voices, which I recognized, because I had heard these voices when they harassed me every day. They beat me down onto the floor and forced my legs open. Then they took the end of a broomstick and forced it into me again and again. Each time it felt like my insides were coming out. The blood was a blessing, because it seemed to lubricate the broomstick.

In order to heal, I'm supposed to forgive; I've been told that many times. But how do you forgive somebody that's done that to you? You tell me that. Could you? I know the identity of the ringleader, and two of the others came back to me a year ago. I searched online, and there was no trace. There's millions of people that have those last names.

My thought of what I would do to them is, I would first tie 'em down to a table. Then I would take a blowtorch, and I would slowly roast them from their toes to the top of their fucking head. You know how long that's been on my mind?"

NATHANIEL PENN (@NATEPENN) is a GQ correspondent.

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Military base cancels Cee Lo Green performance over rape comments

In an attempt to deal with its own sexual assault crisis, the military is holding the musician accountable

by  via Salon on FRIDAY, SEP 5, 2014 12:44 PM EDT

Military base cancels Cee Lo Green performance over rape comments

(Credit: AP/Jack Plunkett)

After issuing a series of tweets rejecting the fact that it is possible to rape an unconscious person (and that, unfortunately, it happens quite often), followed by a sorry-not-sorry-style apology, followed by an implicit denial of ever posting the offending tweets in the first place, musician Cee Lo Green has been cut from the line-up of an upcoming concert at a Washington, D.C. navy base. In an effort to grapple with the military’s own massive sexual assault crisis, officials seem to have concluded that implicitly condoning messages like “People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!” might not be the best course of action.

According to a statement issued by the Naval District Washington via Facebook, Green will no longer perform at a September 20th concert at D.C.’s Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. Event organizers have made it clear that the decision comes in direct response to the former “The Voice” judge’s rape-related comments:

We seek a Department-wide culture of gender dignity and respect where sexual assault is completely eliminated and never tolerated, where sexual assault victims receive compassionate and coordinated support, and where offenders are held appropriately accountable.

Unfortunately, one of the performers we signed for the JBAB Freedom Live show on 20 September recently posted comments on social media that we consider to completely inconsistent with Navy core values. Regardless of intent or context, the lack of sensitivity towards an issue that is one of the great challenges facing our Navy is unacceptable.

As a result, we have made the decision to pull CeeLo Green from the Freedom Live event on 20 September. Little Big Town, the main attraction for the event, will still perform as scheduled. We will announce as soon as possible a replacement opening act of the high quality that you expect and deserve.

Jezebel reports that at least one veteran filed a complaint with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Department of Defense after Green’s offensive tweets came to light, and the base has been lauded for its decision to boot the performer from the line-up. The military’s response, even if it comes from just a single base, indicates some much-needed cognizance of the armed forces’ endemic culture of sexual abuse. Still, with recent increases in the number of sexual assault reports and a climate that engenders a fear of speaking out, there is clearly a lot more change needed.

Jenny Kutner

Jenny Kutner is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on sex, gender and feminism. Follow @jennykutner or email

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Watch This Former Marine Take Down Military Rape Jokes in Less Than Two Minutes

By Julianne Ross via .Mic August 29, 2014

watch, this, former, marine, take, down, military, rape, jokes, in, less, than, two, minutes,

Watch This Former Marine Take Down Military Rape Jokes in Less Than Two MinutesImage Credit: NowThis News

Trigger warning: sexual assault, explicit language

"Roses are red, violets are blue, be my f***ing Valentine or I'll rape you." That's just one comment former U.S. Marine Brian Jones read on a Facebook page denigrating women in the military.

"It's hard to believe that in 2014 I have to tell my fellow Marines — my fellow veterans — that they shouldn't make rape jokes about the women they serve with," Jones' says in his powerful new video for NowThis News, which focuses on the continuing, pernicious problem of gendered hate speech directed at servicewomen on social media.

Jones, who is also editor-in-chief of the veterans' news website Task & Purpose, spent weeks following various derogatory Facebook pages that "propagate harmful stereotypes that all women in the military are sluts, and that they only achieve rank through performing sex acts," and was distressed by the apparent lack of effort made by military leadership towards shutting down these pages for good.

In under two minutes, Jones makes an incisive point about the hypocrisy of the "free speech" arguments used by his fellow armed forces members to justify these offensive pages' existence. "The Marine Corps censors free speech in all sorts of ways," Jones says in the video. "You aren't allowed to wear flip-flops in Walmart, for instance. And so for the Marine Corps to then say 'We respect freedom of speech' when it's bigoted hate speech that's specifically targeted at one person, then there seems to be a really big issue in terms of priorities there."

Watch the video here.

Jones delves more deeply into the issue of social media sexism in an extensive post for Task & Purpose, writing, "This sort of conduct and permitted subculture threatens the readiness and capabilities of the Marine Corps, and by extension, America's national security. The military needs to diversify its ranks with talented, dynamic, highly trained women. [...] But those women need the respect of everyone in their military units. The culture propagated on [these pages] dramatically undermine that possibility."

Jones notes that those who criticize or report these pages may become targets of harassment themselves, and that "it will take a comprehensive effort from senior military leadership" to put an end to this subculture. Unfortunately, in the weeks his site spent monitoring some of the pages, "no intervention from the Marine Corps [was] visible."

Given what a huge problem sexual assault in the U.S. military is, it's disheartening to see military brass acting relatively nonchalantly toward a kind of gendered commentary that would be immediately condemned as part of rape culture in the civilian world.

An estimated 26,000 such assaults occurred in the military over the past year, and the vast majority of survivors do not file reports. Of those who do, only a small fraction ever see a trial. While it certainly will take more than removing offensive Facebook pages to fix the problem of military harassment more generally, that doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything we can to curb gendered hate speech. As Jones points out in the video, not taking these pages seriously contributes to an environment in which it's "okay" to sexually harass and mock women in uniform.

Jones is brave for speaking out about this problem; hopefully those in power — and those who denigrate their fellow service members — will listen.

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Academy adopts strategy to prevent sexual assaults

By Stephen Losey via Air Force Times

Aug. 26, 2014 - 05:42PM  

basic cadet training MWM 20140721

Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson has asked coaches to take a bigger role in preventing sexual assaults by talking with athletes about the issue. (Mike Morones/Staff)

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — The sexual assault scandals that have rocked the military — and their academies, where officers are trained in a campus-like atmosphere — have challenged leaders to come up with new strategies to prevent sexual assault.

At the Air Force Academy, where 45 sexual assaults were reported between June 2012 and May 2013, cadets are now part of discussion groups that begin with a less- threatening topic: dating.

“The only time we talk to cadets about sex is about sexual assault,” Teresa Beasley, the academy’s sexual assault response coordinator, said in a July 23 interview at the academy, referring to the previous training. “That seems to kind of be an unbalanced way of talking.

”Called bystander intervention training, the new program enables smaller groups to more easily engage in dialogue and act out role-playing scenarios that are based on actual cadets’ experiences but have been changed slightly to protect those cadets’ identities. So far, the entire rising sophomore class has gone through this new training, and incoming basic cadets have gone through a class on healthy relationships and dating.

The smaller groups of cadets first talk about what dating is like for them, how they meet people, and how they communicate with potential romantic partners — conversations, Beasley said, that are less threatening and intimidating than leading off by defining sexual assault. After the conversation is rolling, Beasley said, the groups segue into a discussion of what are healthy boundaries, and then move into talking about sexual assault and what is unhealthy.

“That way, we’ve connected with them, we don’t scare them, and we engage with them,” Beasley said. “And it’s fun. And nobody’s really talking to them about this. I’m not sure they’re getting this at home, or at [high] school, because those funds have been cut.”

Beasley said the academy is taking a cue from nearby Colorado College, which is talking openly about healthy sexuality as part of its sexual assault prevention strategy. The new strategy has been in the works for nearly two years, she said.

Latest scandal

Sexual assault has plagued the Air Force Academy for years, and has just hit the headlines again. The Colorado Springs Gazette on Aug. 3 published a lengthy expose into drug use and sexual assault among academy athletes at parties dating back to 2010, which led Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson to call for the inspector general to investigate the athletic department and the “troubling past behavior.” The Gazette reported that the Office of Special Investigations in 2012 planned to throw a party with informants in the crowd as a sting operation, but canceled it because it feared women would be raped there.

The IG review “will help in eliminating subcultures whose climates do not align with our institutional core values,” Johnson said in an Aug. 3 statement.

Johnson also has told athletic coaches to take a bigger role in preventing sexual assaults. “I was frank about the need for them to help the institution enforce our standards,” she said in an Aug. 13 interview with The Associated Press. “I was frank about what happens, the complexity of sexual-assault prevention.”

Reported assaults at the academy dropped to 45 between June 2012 and May 2013, lower than the high of 52 the previous year. The academy accounted for nearly two-thirds of the 70 reported sexual assaults at all service academies in the most recent report. Statistics for June 2013 to May 2014 are not yet available.

Johnson said in a July 21 interview with Air Force Times that sexual assault is an area “where we can never declare victory.” But she is seeing progress. After taking the reins of the academy last year, Johnson said she aligned offices that deal with sexual assault prevention and response across the air base wing, the cadet area, athletics, and other facets of the academy, so they could work better together. To recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the academy held a Take Back the Night rally April 17 on the terrazzo, during which Johnson lit a bonfire.

“That in and of itself doesn’t change something, but it does change the awareness, to understand what the challenges are,” Johnson said.

The academy invited educator and author Jackson Katz, who focuses on gender violence prevention education in schools, sports and the military, to talk to the athletic department in April about preventing violence against women. He was scheduled to return later in August. Also in August, the academy planned to bring in a group called Sex Signals — a program that combines improv comedy, education and audience participation to examine dating, sex and date rape on college campuses — to help cadets understand what others are saying about sex and what signals they themselves are sending.

Shift in strategy

The shift in strategy is the academy’s attempt to not come off as “preachy” and to avoid “message fatigue” — the risk that cadets will begin to tune out their message on preventing sexual assault — and keep things fresh and innovative, Beasley said. The large group training and PowerPoint didn’t work, she said.

The academy’s new program has also been tailored specifically for its cadets. Previously, the academy has used national programs that were for a more general audience.

And that’s important, because the academy has a different culture than nearly every other university in the nation. The students are the same age as most college students, but tend to come from more culturally conservative backgrounds, Beasley said. And the academy has rules against fraternization and bans against sex in the dorms.

So from the start, after basics arrive, the academy begins discussions about boundaries such as not dating upperclassmen when one is a freshman, and about what cadets are comfortable doing once they do start dating. Cadets often don’t think ahead about how far they’re willing to go until they’re in a situation, Beasley said, and then they have to make an on-the-spot judgment.

Beasley said most of the sexual assault the academy sees is defined as “coercion.” Under that type of sexual assault, a victim is repeatedly pressured for sex, despite saying no, until the victim finally gives in. The academy is trying to teach cadets that when someone says no, that refusal should be respected.

The bystander training also addresses a “quid pro quo” type of sexual assault — where someone in a position of authority threatens to, for example, put a cadet on a lousy duty or withhold a plum assignment if the cadet does not agree to sex.

Most rapes don’t occur out of the blue one day, Beasley said. Perpetrators typically start with comments, and over time move on to uncomfortable touching, and later try to strongly persuade someone to have sex or demand a quid pro quo. Beasley said the academy is trying to stop sexual assault at the beginning of those interactions.

Cadets also discuss and learn how to intervene to prevent a potential sexual assault when they see something going wrong in a bar or other social scene — without themselves getting hurt.

“They’ll say, how do I know it’s a bad thing?” Beasley said. “You trust your gut. If you get that gut feeling that something’s wrong, there’s probably something wrong. And then the next thing you need to consider is, how can I intervene safely?”

A safe intervention at a bar could be female cadets stepping in and asking a potential victim to come to the bathroom with them, Beasley said.

The program also uses scenarios to try to get across that having sex with someone who is intoxicated and can’t consent is unacceptable.

“You don’t need to know their blood-alcohol content. It’s just not a good idea,” Beasley said. “We want to prevent them from becoming a perpetrator.”

Even though academy cadets are more conservative than most of their peers, Beasley said, they’ll still talk about sex and dating more openly than previous generations did. So to adjust to that different culture, those leading the program have to use the same language they do.

“What does it mean when you’re talking to somebody?” Beasley said. “I’m not even sure they know. Talking means pre-dating, and then you go into dating. We used to call it going steady. There were very definite rites of passage when you were dating somebody, and now it’s more iffy. The boundaries are different. We talk about boundaries, and how do you know you’re in a relationship, and will you have the talk? What’s the talk? How do you know if you’re OK with something and your partner’s not? Once you get them talking, they’ll talk your ear off.”

But academy leaders also can’t show surprise when a cadet uses a franker word or concept than they’re used to. If someone shows shock, Beasley said, the cadets will shut down and no longer be willing to engage further. So the academy trains officials such as cadet squadron commanders and trainers on how to talk to cadets about sex.

“They want to talk to them, that’s their first- line supervisor,” Beasley said. “But it’s hard to talk about it, because these are conversations that parents should have had with them, in an ideal world. A lot of times, we are in that parenting role in having those conversations. But someone needs to have it with them.”

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'We lost our jobs for reporting being raped': Haunting photo essay depicts the suffering of women who were victims of sexual violence in the U.S. military


PUBLISHED: 18:13 EST, 24 August 2014 | UPDATED: 16:22 EST, 25 August 2014

  • The Battle Within: Sexual Violence In America's Military is a photo essay by Pulitzer Prize finalist photographer Mary Calvert
  • An estimated 26,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place in the armed forces last year
  • Only one in seven victims reported their attacks, and only one in 10 of those cases went to trial
  • Most victims are forced out of the military after reporting the attacks and suffering from Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Pulitzer Prize finalist photo journalist Mary Calvert is revered for putting a spotlight on humanitarian issues that are ignored or that people are not aware of.

While her work - centered on women and children in crisis - has taken her all over the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to India, her latest assignment is much closer to home.

The former Washington Times photographer has compiled a photo essay that attempts to expose the widespread sexual harrassment of women in the American military that is going unreported.

Calvert says that an estimated 26,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place in the armed forces last year, however only one in seven victims reported their attacks.

Heartbreaking: Melissa Bania holds a banner on the foot bridge across from the entrance to Naval Station San Diego. The sexual assault victim is part of a photo essay by Mary Calvert called The Battle Within: Sexual Violence In America's Military

Heartbreaking: Melissa Bania holds a banner on the foot bridge across from the entrance to Naval Station San Diego. The sexual assault victim is part of a photo essay by Mary Calvert called The Battle Within: Sexual Violence In America's Military

Coping: Virginia Messick was raped by her drill sergeant at Lackland Air Force Base during basic training. Her rapist was convicted of raping 10 women under his command and is serving a 20 year prison sentence. She holds her old uniform at home in Marysville, California
Help: Dr Nancy Lutwak, Veteran's Administration emergency room physician in New York, opened up a room just for female vets so they could have a safe place to share their experience of being raped in the military and the health problems they face because of the assaults
Comfort: Meredith Hilderman was a Korean linguist in the US Marines and a newlywed when she was raped by a fellow Marine. Her master Sergeant told her: 'You must have wanted it. You're married and your husband isn't here.' Now out of the military, she sits at her home in her Akron, Ohio
Survivor: US Army Pfc. (Private First Class) Natasha Schuette, 21, was sexually assaulted by her drill sergeant during basic training and subsequently suffered harassment  by other drill sergeants after reporting the assault at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. While Staff Sgt. Louis Corral is serving just four years in prison for assaulting her and four other female trainees, Natasha suffers daily from PTSD because of the attack
Getting by: Military rape survivors Jennifer Norris and Jessica Hinves smoke and discuss their assaults late into the night at Jessica's home. Jennifer Norris was drugged and raped by her recruiter after joining the US Air Force when she was 21 years old. Jessica Hinves, was an Air Force fighter jet mechanic when she was raped by a member of her squadron at Lackland Air Force Base
Troubled: Jennifer Norris was drugged and raped by her recruiter after joining the US Air Force when she was 21 years old. In tech school, she fought off the sexual assault of her instructor and later evaded the advances of her commanders. She suffered a campaign of retaliation from her peers after reporting the attacks and now suffers with PTSD

Only one in 10 of those reported attacks then went to trial.

She was initially inspired by the case Jessica Hinves, an Air Force fighter jet mechanic who was raped by a member of her squadron.

'After a steady campaign of harassment and retaliation by her fellow servicemen, the case against her rapist was thrown out the day before the trial was to begin by a new commander who said, ''Though he didn’t act like a gentleman, there was no reason to prosecute'',' Calvert wrote on her website.

Hinves was discharged from the military soon after for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Calvert says that, like Hinves, most victims are forced out of the service as a result and go on to suffer the effects of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) such as depression and substance abuse.

And so she set out to meet with those victims and document their stories photographically.

The result is The Battle Within: Sexual Violence In America's Military, a stunning and heartbreaking look at how these women have been forced to live their lives.

Overcome: Suzie Champoux mourns the death of her daughter, Army Sgt. Sophie Champoux, who committed suicide under suspicious circumstances after being repeatedly raped while in the US Army. She visits her daughter's grave in Clermont, Florida
Suzie Champoux mourns the death of her daughter, Army Sgt. Sophie Champoux who committed suicide under suspicious circumstances after being repeatedly raped while in the US Army

Suzie Champoux mourns the death of her daughter, Army Sgt. Sophie Champoux who committed suicide under suspicious circumstances after being repeatedly raped while in the US Army

Down: Kate Weber was raped one week into a deployment to Germany when she was 19. 'I just lost everything. I know he was a repeat offender the moment he touched me. He was able to get away with it because the chain of command allowed it.' She suffers from severe PTSD brought on by Military Sexual Trauma when she was in the US Air Force

Down: Kate Weber was raped one week into a deployment to Germany when she was 19. 'I just lost everything. I know he was a repeat offender the moment he touched me. He was able to get away with it because the chain of command allowed it.' She suffers from severe PTSD brought on by Military Sexual Trauma when she was in the US Air Force

Company: Tiffany Berkland and Elisha Morrow were sexually harassed by the same company commander when they were in basic training after joining the Coast Guard. Elisha thought about faking a suicide attempt to get away from him. They did not report the harassment for fear of being kicked out but came forward when they met a third victim. When their case went to trial, they met a fourth young woman who had been raped recently by the same company commander.  Berkland and Morrow are guilt ridden for not coming forward sooner
Dealing: Kate Weber was raped one week into a deployment to Germany when she was 19. 'I just lost everything. I know he was a repeat offender the moment he touched me. He was able to get away with it because the chain of command allowed it.'

Dealing: Kate Weber was raped one week into a deployment to Germany when she was 19. 'I just lost everything. I know he was a repeat offender the moment he touched me. He was able to get away with it because the chain of command allowed it.'

Natasha Schuette, 21, was sexually assaulted by her drill sergeant during basic training and subsequently suffered harassment  by other drill sergeants after reporting the assault at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. While Staff Sgt. Louis Corral is serving just four years in prison for assaulting her and four other female trainees, Natasha suffers daily from PTSD because of the attack. Now stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, she received a citation at the Pentagon for reporting the assault
FighterL Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is fighting to take military rape cases outside the chain of command. A recent  Senate vote for her proposed Military Justice Improvement Act, fell five votes short of passing

FighterL Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is fighting to take military rape cases outside the chain of command. A recent Senate vote for her proposed Military Justice Improvement Act, fell five votes short of passing


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Kirsten Gillibrand, Pushing New College Sexual Assault Bill, Still Has Hope For Failed Military Reform

Jessica Testa via Buzzfeed, August 15, 2014 

“We just need more data.” The Democratic senator’s potential second crack at changing sexual assault

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand still believes she can convince the last several senators who voted against her sweeping and controversial effort to change the way the military prosecutes sexual assault.

The New York Democrat’s bill that would take the prosecution of sexual assault cases outside the military failed 55-45 in March, a surprisingly narrow defeat. In an interview with BuzzFeed, the New York Democrat said Wednesday she thinks she can “win over the last few senators” with a new, shifted approach.

Gillibrand has requested the raw data for all sexual assaults from “the four major bases, one for each of the services.” Instead of focusing on the nine out of 10 service members who don’t report assaults, Gillibrand wants to focus on the one in 10 who do. She believes looking at that smaller set of people will demonstrate the discrepancies in what the military says publicly on the topic.

“We just need more data,” Gillibrand said.

When that data will be available is less clear: The request was made five months ago. It took four years for a similar request made by the Associated Press for the statistics on sexual assault on just one base in Japan to be completed, Gillibrand said. That report revealed that of nearly 500 sex crime allegations, only 24% went to courts-martial at that base.

“When a survivor speaks out and tells what happened to him or her, that is overwhelmingly persuasive,” she said. “When we get that data, we will be able to assess it and say ‘This is what the cases look like when they’re reported … This picture is not pretty either. This is a picture of justice not served.’”

In the interim, Gillibrand has launched a second initiative into addressing how college campuses deal with sexual assault with a bipartisan group of senators, including fellow Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, whose competing military reform bill passed unanimously in the Senate just days after Gillibrand’s failed.

Gillibrand has proposed a handful of new policies and penalties for colleges. On Wednesday, she elaborated on one of the bill’s key pieces: an anonymous survey filled out by sexual assault victims that would be sent to the Department of Education and published for the world — and prospective college students and parents — to see.

Gillibrand said schools wouldn’t be able to touch the survey information. Currently, schools oversee Clery Act reporting, submitting their own number of annual sex crimes — a process many argue gives schools an incentive to make cases disappear. Gillibrand is aiming to remove the school as middle-man and introduce a higher standard of transparency into the process.

“Now, because the climate of the school is going to be public, their incentive is to clean it up, actually fix the problem,” Gillibrand said — which may cause the most headaches for colleges under the proposed bill. There will be no easy, standardized fix; what contributes to a dangerous climate, Gillibrand said, is not necessarily the same thing at any two campuses. While discussing these potential factors, she actually brought up an example from her personal life:

“When I was freshman at Dartmouth, I received a note in my mailbox the first week as to where I was rated in my class in terms of how good looking I was — that sets a climate,” she said. “I was a very young freshman and I didn’t care and I just disregarded it, but that could undermine peoples’ feeling of safety — that on their first day they’re being objectified. That is not a great feeling for a young student.”

Gillibrand also emphasized her proposed requirement that schools hire confidential advisers to thoroughly explain victims’ reporting options to them — and addressed one notably absent aspect: standardized sanctions for perpetrators found to be guilty by their colleges. Punishments for those students currently range from book reports to expulsion.

While the senator said she personally supported a minimum penalty for those adjudicated as responsible and didn’t rule it out for the future, the senators “didn’t have consensus on it” prior to the bill’s introduction.

Gillibrand’s core pursuit, however, is creating incentives for institutions to be transparent about their internal climates of sexual violence.

“They have to assess, ‘What are the risks in my school? What’s causing these negative climates? Is it alcohol-infused? Is it sports-team infused? Is it a certain class of students feeling above the rules?’” she said. “That’s their job, or they’re going to get bad press.”

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PTSD Care within Our Community

Last month, one of our community members highlighted the importance of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) recognition and care.

PTSD knowledge among our community is more important than ever before. Earlier this year, a Government Accountability Report found that although Veteran’s Affairs has been approving more claims overall, the agency continues to discount and delay claims related to sexual assault and harassment trauma. This may change as Veteran’s Affairs reacts to the mountain of evidence against their handling of veteran’s health care claims (for example, appointing a new Secretary, Robert McDonald). Still, survivors wishing to file claims based on these horrendous acts of violence experienced while serving must pass a higher burden of proof than any other person seeking support from the VA insurance system.

One in four veterans personally know a military sexual assault survivor, according to a recent Gallup poll, which points to the epidemic this system-wide problem has become. These numbers are staggering, and showcase the vital importance of providing adequate care to veterans experiencing PTSD from sexual assault crimes. This is of national importance. 

What support, if any, will our nation’s military give to the thousands of military sexual assault survivors?

Currently, not much. We must demand more as a community and as a nation. Our veterans deserve better care. They deserve a system that punishes the perpetrator not the survivor, a system that provides adequate care to health issues caused while serving their country.

As Washington deliberates how to reduce MSA and how to provide MST survivors with sufficient care, we need to band together to take care of each other, offer support, and further understand the resources currently available to those battling PTSD.

These are just some suggestions - as always, the best ones come from this community itself.

General Resources on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: 

Symptoms, Treatment, and Help for PTSD
What is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Treatment Options for PTSD
Coping with a Traumatic Event
Links Between Suicide, PTSD, and Sexual Assault
Four-Question PTSD Screener
Information on PTSD from the Cleveland Clinic
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Understanding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Basics
PTSD: Helpful Information
In-Depth PTSD Information: Children and PTSD
Kids Health: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
10 Causes of PTSD in Children
Treatment of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Resources for Veterans: 

PTSD Overview
PTSD Counseling Services for Veterans
Vietnam Veterans of America's Guide on PTSD
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Ending Nightmares Caused by PTSD
PTSD Fact Sheet

Thanks to the Law Officers of Dr. Bruce G. Fagel & Associates for reaching out to us and providing useful information on this important topic.

Have anything to add? Please share in the comments below. Together, we can ensure that survivors of #MSA and #MST are #NotInvisible.


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Calif. Military Sexual Assault Legislation Headed to Governor Brown – SB 1422

by  via California Newswire, Aug 11, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — A bill to remove investigations and prosecutions of military sexual assault cases from the chain of command is headed to Governor Jerry Brown for his consideration. The bill was given final legislative approval today on a unanimous 36 to 0 bipartisan vote of the State Senate. Senate Bill 1422, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would require that cases of sexual assault of a service member of the California Military Department (CMD) be subject to the jurisdiction of local civilian authorities.

“Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military. While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California can lead by example. Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

The CMD is comprised of the following three components of the active militia: The National Guard, the State Military Reserve, and the Naval Militia. The CMD’s 24,000-person roster includes the California National Guard (CalGuard), the largest of the 54 state-level National Guards in U.S. states and territories. The majority of its service members are on inactive duty status. The federal government has struggled with how best to address sexual assaults in the military. Federal mandates have included establishing a Sexual Assault Response Program (SAPR), Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) and a dual-track sexual assault reporting system for victims.

However, CMD lacks the personnel and infrastructure to adjudicate sexual assault cases. As a result, the CMD’s standing policy is to refer these cases to local authorities who are better equipped to investigate and prosecute potential crimes. Senator Padilla’s legislation would make this policy state law.

“Local jurisdictions are in a better position to prosecute sexual assault cases in California’s Military Department. Importantly, this practice also separates the investigation and prosecution from the chain of command ensuring that there is no conflict of interest in the evaluation and prosecution of sexual assault cases,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

SB 1422 would require that cases involving the sexual assault of a service member of the California Military Department be subject to the jurisdiction of local civilian authorities. It also provides for no statute of limitation in cases of sexual assault in the CMD. The bill would also require the department to report annually to the Governor and the Legislature on sexual assault statistics and the efficacy of the department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program.

Every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted. 1 in 3 American women will be sexually abused during their lifetime. These crimes also take place in our military departments. The most recent report from the Department of Defense estimated that 26,000 service members had experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Last year, U.S. soldiers were 15 times more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by an enemy.

Senator Alex Padilla, 41, graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and just completed serving on the MIT Corporation Board. He is President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He is Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and represents the more than 1,100,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District in Los Angeles.

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Rape culture at the Air Force Academy: The shocking truth no one wants to confront

There's momentum to give the federal anti-sex discrimination law teeth. But here's why that won't help young cadets

By Katie McDonough via Salon, August 5, 2014 

Rape culture at the Air Force Academy: The shocking truth no one wants to confront

Air Force Cadets from the class of 2014 arrive for their graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) (Credit: AP)

A new investigative report on sexual violence and other misconduct at the United States Air Force Academy (AFA) is a wildly disturbing look at campus rape culture at the prestigious military school. Disturbing, but sadly familiar. Cadets on the school’s athletic teams are alleged to have sexually assaulted female classmates, and those crimes were largely ignored by coaches and administrators. When cadets were held accountable, the school took no further action to discipline the coaches and other officers who failed to act. The report exposes, as Alan Pyke of ThinkProgress put it, “the intersection of hero culture and rape culture.”

Here are just a few of the findings from Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Tom Roeder’s piece (emphasis mine):

“‘The girls’ drink, or Captain Morgan with the blue lid, was only for girls to drink [at one party at the school],’ [Office of Special Investigations] confidential informant cadet Eric Thomas told investigators in a written statement obtained by The Gazette. The blue-capped bottle, he explained, was laced with ‘roofies,’ a street term for flunitrazepam, a powerful sedative known as a date-rape drug.”

“After academy leaders were told about the allegations of rape and drug use, OSI agents planned their own party, one with informants in the crowd and special agents nearby to bust bad actors. But leaders determined that the risk that women would be raped was so high that the idea of a January 2012 sting was quashed, academy officials said.”

“In the 2012-2013 academic year, cadets reported 45 sexual assaults, representing nearly two-thirds of the 70 reported assaults at all three major military academies.”

These things are, of course, outrageous and unacceptable. They are also depressingly common, both at military and non-military schools. But the first thing I thought after reading Roeder’s in-depth examination of just how bad things are at AFA was Title IX. Namely, that Title IX — in all its weak imperfection — doesn’t protect cadets at AFA or any other service academy. Despite being taxpayer-funded institutions, each is exempted from the federal anti-sex discrimination law. Victims of sexual assault at these schools are more or less on their own, even more on their own than students at other universities who are already quite on their own.

Sexual assault at these schools “is something that’s being tracked, but doesn’t get a lot of attention because the academies fall in this middle ground between an academic environment and a military environment,” Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) policy director Greg Jacob told Salon. “But there is no reason the academies shouldn’t be included in Title IX. It would bridge the gap between what Congress is trying to do with colleges and what they tried to do with the active duty military.”

And as Roeder’s report makes clear, AFA officials mostly framed the sexual violence problem on their campus as a matter of a few bad apples who don’t meet the school’s “strict conduct rules” rather than a systemic lack of accountability that started at the very top. There has been some movement toward reform — AFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson has ordered a review of the athletic department, a few cadets were punished following the OSI investigation and other cadets have started a sexual assault awareness group — but, as Roeder points out, “While pains were taken to punish the cadets for the conduct, there’s little evidence that academy leaders asked wider questions about whether the misconduct of so many athletes exposed deeper problems within the sports programs.”

This is the problem with “bad apple” thinking, Jacob said. “How many times do you have to try to point out the bad apples before you realize the whole bushel basket needs to be thrown out? How many bad apples do you have to eat before you cut down the poison tree?”

And failures of accountability at the service academies can have serious consequences throughout the military, since most generals and admirals come from these elite schools. “When you look at the number of four-star generals in the military — the military academies are unique not only because of the nature of the education, but also the influence their graduates have on these institutions,” Jacob noted. “All of the top leaders come from the academies.”

The solution is not just self-correction from AFA and other military schools, but for Congress to act to bring them under the umbrella of Title IX, according to Jacob. “This is why we have Title IX,” he explained. “We have an atmosphere right now where a student has to be worried about being sexually harassed or assaulted. How are they supposed to learn when they have to look over their shoulder walking to and from class?”

There’s real momentum right now to give the federal anti-sex discrimination law some teeth, but if service academies continue to be exempted, survivors at these schools won’t be able to share in those gains. “The service academies are the hothouse where you’re either going to sprout leaders or predators,” Jacob said. “It’s a unique challenge, but it’s really one that Congress hasn’t taken up. They should.”

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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The Invisible War


See the Film, Spread the Message


Stand with Survivors