Monday, July 16, 2007
Madness
The terms of war have, almost without exception, included rape. Usually, the invading army comes in, kills the men and rapes the women. It routinely serves a strategic function in war and acts as an integral tool for achieving military objectives. HRW accessed 7/16/07.

According to Amnesty International,
In every armed conflict investigated by Amnesty International in 1999 and 2000, the torture of women was reported, most often in the form of sexual violence. Rape, when used as a weapon of war, is systematically employed for a variety of purposes, including intimidation, humiliation, political terror, extracting information, rewarding soldiers, and "ethnic cleansing".
Although women have served in various roles in military forces throughout the ages, including but certainly not limited to camp followers, military suppliers, medics and soldiers, never have we been more active in the military than today.

Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Nepal, Switzerland, Great Britain and Israel all have women in combat functions in their military. The Coalition forces in Iraq have lost 84 women to date.

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In 1987 I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test as required by my high school. I aced nearly everything. Despite being voted Most Likely to Join the Peace Corps (I kid you not), I very seriously considered joining the Navy in order to become a chaplain.

Reagan was in the White House though and the Berlin Wall was still standing and the threat of war with the Soviets was something I was not willing to bet on. So, I chose not to join.

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Most of the rapes that have occurred by fighting forces involved the other side. The enemy. Not that that makes anything any better - any more sane. Whether a murder was "in the heat of passion" or premeditated murder matters not to the deceased.

Things seem to have taken a turn though. Last month in Doonesbury, Garry Trudeau introduced Cora, a sexual assault specialist working with the VA. Apparently military sexual trauma (MST) is so widespread within the ranks of female soldiers that Doonesbury has picked it up as a story line.

This is not the so-called "enemy" assaulting our female soldiers - these are men with our flag on their uniforms who are assaulting women in the showers and latrines.

Men who answer to our Commander in Chief who demand sex from their female subordinates.

Men who are protecting the "home front" who are denying medical attention to sexually assaulted soldiers and placing them back into the units in which their rapist still serves.

Salon.com features an article entitled, The Private War of Women Soldiers on sexual assault occurring in the military. This article is a "must read" and if you can stomach it, the letters to Salon are also pretty enlightening.

The Denver Post reported on a woman named Danielle who was raped in Kuwait.

Women's Policy Inc. reports on Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD among women.
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In 1987, I attended a party for a friend, K. He was returning home from Camp Pendleton. He was the first person I had ever known who had joined the military. When he was allowed to write, he did so, telling us stories of all of the trials he went through in order to become a U.S. Marine.

That night, like all other nights at K's house, his single mother was nowhere to be found and there was enough alcohol for all of us. With the few memories I actually have of any part of high school, I remember wearing a pair of baby blue leggings (1987, remember).

K arrived at his mother's house with a new friend that he brought home from boot camp. We were all in the backyard. K went to hug his friends. When he got to me he said, "Hi. I'm K." and put out his hand for me to shake. I had become so thin that he didn't recognize me.

Later that night, drunk and stoned off my 16 year old ass, I was making out with the other Marine, R. We went to K's room. I don't know what I had planned but it wasn't having sex with him. To this day I tell myself I should have known better. After all, it was his first hour home from boot camp.

Eventually, K heard me screaming. Or someone heard me screaming and K broke down his own bedroom door. There was a lot of yelling. He threw R out. The party ended. Someone took me home.

No one ever talked about it again. I wrote about it in a journal that was a required assignment. My English teacher never read it. She handed it back to me. It got an "A".

One guy I knew somehow found out about what had happened. He told me he wanted to help. He told me he was going to tell the school counselor. I told him if he did, I'd report him for drug use.
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I don't know what the military teaches people about how other human beings should be treated. I hear that the military is a place of honor and trust. I was raped under a bumper sticker that read, "Semper fi".

What ever it is that the military teaches, I want so badly to be wrong.

I don't think I am.

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12 Comments:

Blogger æ said...

Faith,
what he did was so fucked up.

I will say it a million times, over and over, if you want me to. That was not your fault, it was not something you did or didn't do or could have prevented because it was really about

HIM and how we was demented. He was sick. It was also about K's mom not being home and about your teacher not even HEARING your cry for help.

It's about being let down by the people who were supposed to protect you, people who took what they wanted and people who didn't know how to hear teen cries.

I am so glad you are here. I am so glad you made it.

love,
ae

Blogger bit said...

I am, again, one of those "blurkers," coming out of the woodwork to send a little love your way. These things are so unpleasant to remember. Something very similar happened to me during college--I brought a boy to my room when we were both drunk. I also feel like I should have known better.

I know you know it wasn't your fault, but we can't always help how we feel. Thank you for writing this and for sharing it with us.

Love,
oceanpoet

Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

Just keep working on it. That's one thing I now know. Dealing with it, talking about it, facing it. After decades of trying to completely ignore the festering wounds, the only way to treat the problem is to acknowledge the source.

And yes, the military is a fucked up bureaucracy in the time-honored tradition of a patriarchal society which automatically assigns blame on the woman. I blame the religious institutions for propagating that perspective. But even if we can't fully change things to the way we would want them, we can raise awareness as to the problem.

Oh, yeah. I guess that's what you are doing.

:) Huzzah.

Blogger Bridget said...

I'm so sorry for what you went through, but thank you for sharing it; it helps to know that I'm not alone.

And thanks for the link, re: women soldiers. That is so f*cked up, it is beyond belief; I respect the military, considered joining it myself, but this is twisted and sick. And stupid--these guys have to rely on these women, these armed women, to guard their backs. Not the smartest thing to piss off someone like that. Wonder how many of those women either offed or just didn't save their abusers, later.

Blogger miss kendra said...

my stepfather was a military man.

Blogger Faith said...

Ms. K -

Why am I not surprised.

AE -

Thank you. Intellectually, that's all in there. Emotionally - nowhere to be found.

Bridget - You're definitely not alone. Unfortunately.

MG - Huzzah indeed. That is the only reason I do these things - tell these intensely personal stories. I hope it is seen that way and not like I'm trying to get attention or be a big drama queen (big fear of mine)

Bit - Thank you for saying that.

Blogger æ said...

yup yup, I can hear that. That's why we all have each other to help hold those truths until we can fully wear them as our own.

Blogger Allison said...

You know that I am very sorry about what you went through.

It seems to me if you get a bunch of young, immature guys together in close quarters, you're asking for trouble. It's testosterone overload. Look at fraternities - I think you could make the same argument, and these are supposedly educated and refined men.

To show there are exceptions, my dad, who I love and admire to no end, was a military man, both a Navy fighter pilot and worked at the Pentagon for the Air Force. You've met him and I bet you and many other people wouldn't have a bad thing to say about him.

It will never be 100% one way or the other.

Blogger Faith said...

Allison -

Of course you're right. I love your dad - he's a great guy and I do believe that there are plenty of honorable people in the military. I just don't understand how this has become so damn widespread?!

Blogger K8 said...

Wow. I'm so sorry. There are so many ways what happened then to you and what's happening now is so wrong.

Blogger Uccellina said...

That's horrible. Unfortunately, while closed, iconically Male institutions such as fraternities and the military preach honor as their central tenet, they also preach solidarity even when that honor is breached. That's why the women who have come forward with their stories are so fucking brave - they know what the repercussions will be, and they stand up for themselves and what's right anyway. You are also so fucking brave, and I admire you.

Blogger fathima said...

i've had this post starred in my reader for a while now, because i wanted to respond, but i also didn't know what to say.
but i have nothing terribly illuminative or impressive to say. but to echo everyone else, thank you being so brave and sharing this.

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