July 1, 2013
There is a new voice in the world, shining a bright light on the culture of abuse toward women in the U.S. Military. It is mine, Sarah L. Blum, and you are going to be hearing from me often for a while. I am a nurse Vietnam veteran and began this journey in 2006 when I was asked to write about women serving in our military. As I began to interview women veterans from WWII through the different military conflicts and time periods up to and through the current women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, I was hearing stories of pride and service, basic training and mustard gas, and then many stories of military sexual trauma. My focus was on all the stories and experiences.
Because I had never tried to write a book before, I was also learning how to write effectively and learning about the publishing industry. In 2008 and 2009 I attended the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Conferences and learned a great deal. Then in 2009, I asked an editor to look at what I had so far and give me feedback. What he shared was invaluable to me including, narrow the focus of the book to the culture of abuse in the military. I was reluctant to do that because I was very connected to the women who graciously gave me their stories and I did not want to lose those stories that did not fit into a narrow focus on sexual assault. It took me several months to deal with my emotions and understand what to do. When I got clear, I understood that I had two books and the stories that did not fit into either book could go on the website you are now visiting.
The first book, Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military will be released in early November and Women Under Fire: PTSD and Healing is not yet completed. You may pre-order the first book to ship in early November with this link: https://ec128.infusionsoft.com/app/orderForms/Women-Under-Fire-Pre-Order-2013
The U.S. Military has been covering up their abusive culture for decades; and now, sexual predators believe they are safe in our military, where they have a target rich environment to prey on. For decades they have gotten away with their violent, despicable behavior, and have been emboldened to continue by the failure of military leadership to hold them accountable. Military predators believe they are entitled to take what they want from their victims and they know, because it has always been true, that they will be protected by their brothers and promoted by their commanders.
Victims, on the other hand, are shamed, humiliated, ostracized, isolated, denied privacy and compassionate care, have their health and self respect destroyed and lose their careers. Sixty-two percent of those who reported sexual assault were retaliated against over this past year.
This pervasive problem has been going on and covered up for decades. It is time for accountability. Our military has avoided it for too long and Congress has been too passive with its oversight. The military has been spouting the meaningless phrase, “Zero Tolerance” ad nauseam; and they have lost credibility. The U.S. Armed Forces habitually ineffective responses to sexual assault toward the women who report it, have demonstrated a consistent failure of leadership; they failed to take ownership of their pervasive and continuing culture of abuse toward women, to address it fully and deal with all of its effects appropriately.
It is time for Congress to take their role in oversight seriously and to call for full investigations into the culture of abuse. The military cannot and must not investigate themselves. It is time to insist that the criminal behavior of sexual predators in our military be investigated and prosecuted independent of the chain of command and with civilian oversight. The military has shown they are incapable of providing justice from within the culture of abuse. Women serving our country have been denied fair and compassionate responses and justice. That must change.
The Pentagon’s Domestic Violence Task Force report from March 2003, recommended a “culture shift” by holding offenders accountable and punishing criminal behavior. Many of their specific recommendations apply also to military sexual assault. It seems to me that since the military and congress ignored that report ten years ago, they can start by reviewing it and utilizing what applies right now and move forward from there. We need a comprehensive look at all the services, how they handle a victim from first contact to the last and how they handle the report, follow up, investigations, and court case. We also need a new look at the UCMJ regarding violent sex crimes and determine the changes needed to usher in justice for all. At present it is not providing “uniform justice,” but rather cover for the military itself. Lastly, legal experts need to look at the Feres Doctrine and change it so that everyone in our military receives appropriate justice.
Below are some links to Op Eds that I wrote and video’s from the news that are current regarding the issue of military sexual assault toward women.
Video on msnbc.com: The Pentagon released new numbers today showing an increase in sexual assault in 2012. Chris Hayes talks about the new Pentagon numbers with Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Goldie Taylor, and Susan Burke.
Video on msnbc.com: The military doesn’t seem to grasp the enormity of its problems with sexual assault. Chris Hayes talks about military culture with Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Goldie Taylor, and Susan Burke.
Video on msnbc.com: Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, talks with Rachel Maddow about the shocking problem of sexual assaults in the U.S. military and how the system can be restructured to bring accountability to offenders as well as negligent leadership.
Video on msnbc.com: Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York plans to introduce legislation to change the way the military handles allegations of sexual assault. In an exclusive interview on The Last Word, she explained why it should be “more parallel to the civilian system.”
Video on msnbc.com: Chris Hayes talks with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rachel Maddow, and Anu Bhagwati of the Service Women’s Action Network about the barriers to progress in combating sexual assault in the military.
Video on msnbc.com: Senator Barbara Boxer talks with Rachel Maddow about yet another high profile sex abuse scandal in the U.S. military and what can be done legislatively to fix a problem at which military leaders have failed miserably and which is apparently sustained in part by military culture.
Video on msnbc.com: Moments after President Obama met with Pentagon leaders to talk about combating the problem of sexual assaults in the military, the manager of the sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell, Ky. was arrested. Chris Hayes talks with Spencer Ackerman, senior writer for Wired’…
Video on msnbc.com: Today the women of the Senate Armed Services Committee grilled military leaders about sexual assault in the military. Chris Hayes talks about the hearing with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Anu Bhagwati, and Goldie Taylor.