The Interview — Part II

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What do you believe people should most understand about the sexual violence taking place in the US Military?
I believe the public does not have a clue about what is really going on in our military between men and women. There has been so much propaganda, misinformation and image control in relation to the military, especially during the last Bush Administration, that it has given a totally false impression and had actually contributed to the level of violence against women by military men.
We know there are 26,000 sexual assaults each year or one every twenty minutes. 95% of the perpetrators are serial rapists and repeat offenders who have a target rich environment in which to rape and abuse women and they have the protection of their leaders who are more interested in their careers and the image of the corps than the well being of their soldiers. Any woman who has the audacity to report a rape/sexual assault is usually retaliated against severely including being denied appropriate medical care, denied food, isolated, ostracized, given a less than honorable discharge or labeled with a personality disorder and kicked out without benefits.
Our military also has a domestic violence issue that they have ignored for the last decade, as they have discounted sexual assaults for two or more decades. In 2002 there were several murders at Fort Bragg that the military tried desperately to cover up, in fact there was a systematic denial and cover up of rampant family abuse by soldiers returning home from combat, but the military dealt with it as a public relations issue and said it was just an anomaly when it was only the tip of the iceberg. Many wives were frightened and calling into hotlines and spilling out the gruesome details of beatings and abuse while the military continued to act as though it was not happening. To this day our military does not hold its soldiers accountable for domestic violence or sexual assault toward women serving.

You have worked extensively over the years with those who suffer from PTSD, and have worked with them towards trauma resolution. What should we, as a society, be doing for the men and women who continue to suffer with these kinds of wounds? How can we, as a society, better support our wounded warriors?
What our society can do for the men and women active duty personnel and veterans who have PTSD is multifaceted. Number one is never ever send them out to fight on behalf of politicians or millionaires. If they are sent out to fight in a war be willing to be responsible for what happens to them in that war. If a war is funded then fund the VA equally to deal with the effects of that war on our service-members. 

Create a way for soldiers in a war to write letters back to their communities telling about their experiences, make it personal, as though writing to their families. In that way the community cannot distance themselves from the realities on the ground. When those soldiers return home, have a community gathering to embrace, greet and thank them plus provide services for them. Depending on their needs, they might benefit from psychological debriefing and therapy, assistance with educational, employment and medical-benefits, and making the transition back to civilian life.

What are you working on now?
I am still working on speaking out about the culture of abuse toward women in our military and having our military hold offenders accountable, punish criminal behavior, remove the criminal element especially sexual predators from the military and take reporting sexual assault out of the chain of command. I am also hoping to get back to writing and finish the second book called: Women Under Fire: PTSD and Healing.
Final Words of Wisdom
Our military justice system is broken and change is imperative. We can no longer allow the military to investigate themselves. They are far too self-protective. It is time for independent unbiased investigations into sexual assault crimes and how our military mishandles them. Do a thorough evaluation at every level of how reports of abuse toward women are handled, how protective orders are managed, and how the system applies accountability and justice, if at all. It is time to fully investigate this abuse culture, clean house and begin anew with appropriate policies and actions that restore honor, integrity and accountability to our military and bring justice to women serving.

Please contact your senators and representatives and members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and tell them that and to hold offenders accountable, punish criminal behavior and remove reporting from the chain of command. If that last one is not done nothing will work.

BobHerbert writing in The New York TimesMarch 2009 said and I quote: “The military could bring about a radical reduction in the number of rapes and other forms of sexual assault if it wanted to, and it could radically improve the overall treatment of women in the Armed Forces.  There is no real desire in the military to modify
this aspect of its culture.  It is an ultra-macho environment in which the overwhelming tendency has been to see all women, civilian and military, young and old, American and foreign— solely as sexual objects.  Real change will have to be imposed from outside the military.  It will not come from within.  Rape and other forms of sexual assault against women is the great shame of the U. S. Armed Forces, and there is no evidence that this ghastly problem, kept out of sight as much as possible, is diminishing.”

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.