For those that have spent time in the military, you have at one point or another heard the phrase "Perception is Reality". This simple phrase rings so true given how the United States Air Force is currently handling the Sex Abuse/Rape scandal at the Lackland AFB Basic Training facility. Since watching this "scandal" unfold, I have witnessed a series of unfortunate missteps that I feel are most likely hurting the American public's perception of the military, which may have negative impacts on the recruitment numbers as well. We don't want that, if the Air Force is genuinely trying to clean house. We want to help civilians understand what is happening in order to educate them about the risks and the process.
Due to the seriousness of the crime, we also want an opportunity to meet with the House Armed Services Committee so we can help educate them about how things work in the military. Based on what has occurred at Lackland, I believe that we need survivors, family, advocates, and our Congressional members to meet at the table to discuss the various, complex pieces including military culture, modis operandi of a predator, military justice system in theory, military trial procedures and outcomes, plea agreements, lesser charges, low prosecution rates, etc. We desperately need the survivors to share their stories with Congress so they can hear their unique perspectives. There is a lot to be learned from similar stories, similar crimes, similar treatment, similar abuses, similar outcomes, and similar injustices. From the research that I have conducted, we are definitely seeing the same trends with both the treatment of victims and the attitude of Commands. Things are getting more and more hostile and we are dealing with a form of workplace violence, in addition to criminal activity.
Posted by My Duty To Speak · August 10, 2012 3:45 PM
· 1 reaction
Jennifer Norris, Maine Director of the Military Rape Crisis Center speech at a recent press conference hosted by Protect Our Defenders. Jennifer was in Washington DC with other sexual assault survivors of the military asking elected Congressional leaders to conduct a full investigation on how the DoD is addressing rape and sexual assault in the military.
On March of 2009, after a long road of therapy and discovery surrounding my military sexual assault, I opened a claim with the Veteran’s Benefits Administration for PTSD. I told the story of what had happened, pulled together all my PTSD treatment records and submitted my claim. In September of that year, my claim was denied due to a “lack of evidence.” Like many survivors, I hadn’t reported my rape because the Petty Officer I tried to report it to threatened me with punitive action for filing a false report. The VA also said that my PTSD was caused by my father’s death when I was 16.
I was devastated. First the Military Police told me that I wasn’t raped and that the incident was my fault, and now the VA was telling me the same. It took me eight months, with the assistance of therapy, to work up the courage to file an appeal. This time, I had a San Diego County Veteran’s representative to assist me. I also had letters from my therapist and the head of the MST department at the San Diego VA, stating that my PTSD symptoms were not caused by my father’s death, but explicitly by a rape that had happened while I was enlisted.
My appeal was denied again. The VA stated that it was denied because I did not report the rape and because there were no “markers” in my service report showing behavioral or conduct problems because my grades hadn’t suffered and I hadn’t had any discipline problems consistent with rape. Further, they cited an incident of domestic abuse in my health records from 2005 where I had reported bruising on my arms from a boyfriend having grabbed my wrist. I reported this incident so that I could file a restraining order against this man. The VA felt that the incident was probably responsible for my PTSD, and they denied my claim again.
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas participated in a historic Joint House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing today where Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testified. Each member only had 2 minutes for questioning and she used hers to make mention of The Invisible War and bring Military Sexual Trauma to the forefront of the conversation. We were blown away and are ever so grateful for her leadership and continued support to transform the way this issue is handled within the walls of power in Washington, DC. Congresswoman Tsongas questioned the Secretaries about legislation she authored, which was signed into law last year, to better support victims of military sexual assault as they make the transition to veteran status.
Last week, we gathered in room 334 in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill to witness history in the making: the first ever Congressional hearing dedicated exclusively to improving the VA claims process for Military Sexual Trauma survivors.
A big THANK YOU to all of the supporters, survivors, advocacy organizations and policy makers who were in attendance, and to each and every one of you, who has raised your voice to show Congress and the rest of Washington that survivors of Military Sexual Trauma are not invisible.
House Committee on Veteran's Affairs posted on July 18, 2012:
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held an oversight hearing entitled, “Invisible Wounds: Examining the Disability Compensation Benefits Process for Victims of Military Sexual Trauma.” The hearing focused on urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide consistent review of military sexual assault claims and appropriate care for those who have endured military sexual assault.
“Women are the fastest growing population among veterans, making up 8 percent of the Armed Forces. However, the Department of Defense estimates that one in four women who join the armed services will be raped or assaulted, but that only about 10 percent of such incidents are ever reported,” stated Rep. Jon Runyan, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. “Even more alarming is that of those few who did report incidents of military sexual trauma, over 75 percent stated that they would not make the same decision about reporting the incident again, due to the consequences it had on their military career."
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen of the House. My name is Ruth Moore and it is an honor to be among you today. As you know, I am a Military Sexual Trauma survivor who lives with PTSD and Depression. I am here today to share my 23-year struggle to get help from the Veterans Health Administration and disability compensation from the Veterans Benefits Administration.
In 1987, I was a bright, vivacious 18-year-old, serving in the United States Navy. After my training school, my first assignment was to an overseas duty station in Europe. 2 ½ months after I arrived, I was raped by my supervisor outside of the local club. Not once, but twice. I sought help from the Chaplain, but did not receive any. I tried to move beyond this nightmare, but had contracted a STD. At this point, my life spiraled downward and I attempted suicide. Shortly thereafter, I was medivac’d to Bethesda Naval Hospital, and ultimately discharged from the Navy. No prosecution was ever made against the perpetrator. In hindsight, it was easier for the military to get rid of me, than admit to a rape.