Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Invisible War and Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This month, on April 22, my vet center hosted a showing of The Invisible War.  I was the guest speaker.  I've done lots of speaking events in my past as a fund raiser for a non profit, as well as a volunteer coordinator and some other jobs.  But this was my first public talk about MST.  My new therapist had helped me prepare for it.   

There was not a large turnout, and I was disappointed to not see the two men who work at the Vet Center present.  Their support by being there would have meant a lot. One showed up to deliver fans to the room, but then left.  But my family of Choice showed up and that was great!  

There were also some other survivors who showed up to see it, and I thank them.  I hope to get to know them better and be of help any way I can.

I spoke after the movie, and below is the text of my speech.  However here, I have added links to the two requests I made to folks present.

Ladies and gentleman, fellow veterans.

First I want to thank the Harris County Veterans Center for hosting this showing of the Invisible War.   I also want to thank my family of choice who have turned out in support of me. 

It was Dec of 2011 when I finally came forward after 35 years of hiding some terrible secrets.  I didn't do it for me, but for a dear lady veteran friend out in Colorado that I had met online.  She was covering a sick friend's duty watch in Desert Storm so he wouldn't be AWOL, when her security partner for the watch attacked and raped her, telling her she couldn't tell or he'd turn in her and her friend and destroy both their careers.  She tried to report it anyway, and was thrown out on a dishonorable discharge for having 'borderline personality dishorder'.  The military said it was all made up.  She hadn't made it up though.  She stil has terrible nightmares and flashbacks. She is the first person I ever told the whole story to.  I knew she needed help, and she said if I'd go for help, then she would too. So I did.  I had no idea how badly I really needed that help. 

My story is much the same as those you saw on the screen tonight.  I was attacked and raped by four different fellow service people while I was in.  I was told to never tell or I would be set up for court martial and my career would be destroyed and I would be thrown out dishonorably.  I saw it happen to others who told.  How they were harassed and ridiculed and told to just 'suck it up'. I knew I'd get the same treatment.  In my case, it was my supervisors who also controlled my work hours and made sure I was the one closing up the shop or working at an isolated location. They were predators who had done it before, were doing it to others at that time, and I'm sure they went on to continue.  They had finely honed skills. Command turned a blind eye and ear as it was their buddies doing it.  I know my first Chief had a good idea what his first class was doing, and as he hated women in the Navy, he had told me he would do anything he could to get me thrown out of 'this man's Navy'... so I assumed this was one of those things. I could not fight him, but I could survive, and as crazy as I might have gotten in years later, I hung on tight and did survive.  But it destroyed my career anyways, because I gave up. I didn't even try to advance in rank after the 2nd attack because I just wanted to get out.  the devastation it made in my life has lasted for three decades. 

When I got out, all I was was the proud veteran. All the ugliness was buried deep, so I thought.  I never told people the real reason I couldn't have kids, that I'd been beaten so bad I couldn't. Or that when my throat seizes up, its because CB2's idea of foreplay was to choke me into compliance. Or that I've got this gap between my teeth because they hit me in the jaws so many times my teeth fractured and as they've come out, my teeth have slid around.  PTSD like I have from those years is invisible to most eyes, but not to those of us behind the eyes.

I want to say that I also met some wonderful people while I was in, people I knew I couldn't tell or else they would do something that would hurt their careers, and would only make me feel worse.  I love the Navy, they just need to change the atmosphere.  You don't see IBM or other companies with rape rates like the military.  It all comes back to Command.
What you can do to help...
There are two things right now I'd ask of you. Number one is to sign the petition linked off of Protect Our Defenders web sight, on Causes..
To: Chuck Hagel, United States Secretary of Defense
Last month with a flick of his pen, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin set justice aside and overruled a jury’s verdict convicting Lt. Col. James Wilkerson of aggravated sexual assault of a civilian contractor at Aviano Air Base. As his punishment, Wilkerson was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to one year in jail. Franklin's reversal freed his fellow fighter pilot and reinstated him back into the Air Force, in part because he was described by friends and family as  a “doting father and husband.”
To General Franklin, it didn’t matter that Wilkerson had failed a lie-detector test or that his own legal counsel recommended against overruling the verdict. Instead, Franklin claimed that Wilkerson’s conviction and punishment should be overturned because he was a “doting father and husband.”
Franklin failed to mention that Wilkerson had a long history of misconduct.  He had already been caught peeking over a bathroom stall while a subordinate's wife urinated. Wilkerson egregiously violated safety standards, pulled rank to fend off law enforcement officials, was abusive to fellow military officials -- and that’s just what we know so far.
Despite strong corroborating testimony from independent witnesses and clear supporting facts on the record, Franklin, who did not attend the trial, decided that he did not believe the victim. Heard that before?
Unless Franklin is dismissed from the service for his biased and unfounded reversal of Wilkerson’s conviction, Franklin’s actions will have a chilling effect on victims who might otherwise report being sexually assaulted. It sends exactly the wrong message to bystanders, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and juries who otherwise might try to do the right thing. It confirms to sexual predators that they face little risk of being punished.  "
The 2nd thing is directly connected to this, and that is to contact your congress person and ask them to support the STOP Act.
"At a press conference April 17, Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-CA) announced that she is reintroducing the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (STOP Act) to address sexual assault in the military.  Jackie Speier has risen on the house floor over 20 times to speak out on behalf of MST survivors.  We deserve this support and we must support this bill.
In an official statement, Speier said “The epidemic of military rape and sexual assault is a damning indictment of the military judicial system’s treatment of these cases. True justice demands impartiality which is absent in a system that relies on individual commanders who have no legal expertise to determine which assailants get prosecuted and which go free. Instead of commanders making decisions about guilt or innocence, no matter how senior, an independent military office of trained experts should determine how these cases are treated.”
The STOP Act, which has 83 co-sponsors, would take sexual assault cases out of the hands of chains of command and place it under the jurisdiction of an autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office which will be comprised of civilian and military personnel. This would prevent officers from being able to overturn sexual assault convictions like in a case last month."
This is the way to make a true change.  The military has been saying since I was in that they were going to change things.  35 years is enough time.  This last event I spoke about above must be the last nail in the coffin of injustice!

Thank you for coming.. 

While there, Wendi came up and  gave me her card.  Here is the link to her web site that is amazingly helpful. I've adder to to our blog roll.
 Thanks bunches Wendi, I look forward to getting to know you and any help possible!

Thanks to my friends and family for continuing to being there for me.

Over and out, 

Catching Up

So..the new doc is great.   I really like her a lot.  I am seeing her weekly   I took two weeks off while getting reading for some other activities, but will be seeing her on Tue again.

The dentist was a bust.  They say I need special treatment for my gums, and it runs about $4,000 dollar.  Yes, four zeros worth.  Then to fix the rest of my mouth, about the same amount again.  I simply can't afford that.  Not remotely.  I found a dental discount program, and I guess I'll see what I can do to get some work done.  But it's so depressing, I find myself avoiding working on it at all, just taking more ibuprofen for it.

Good news is I figured out that my 70% is 'static' which means permanent in VA lingo. Whew.
 The bad news is that its been since early last Sept that I filed my unemployability, almost 8 months, but that it normally takes about 2.5 years for them to make a decision on it. If luck is bad and its denied, it can take another 3 years to get the appeal done.  :-( That's really really sad.   

Otherwise, other then dealing with the PTSD, and getting very frustrated over politics I won't mention here, life is good.  K had spoiled me by getting me all the supplies to get my garden going just like I wanted to, and I am spending a lot of time in it.  

I have another post to make about a recent event I was a speaker at...

over and out