It's becoming a more familiar topic in the public media. Military Sexual Trauma. MST. Mr and Mrs John Q. Public are starting to understand this is a real problem in the military today. TODAY. TODAY? I've got news, my friends. This is not a NEW issue. This did not just start happening during the OIF/OEF and Afghanistan Wars. The problem extends much farther back than that. If you are a fan or regular reader of this blog you know that by now. If you are John Q. Public, you probably think this just started within the last decade or so. WRONG ANSWER.
I have a friend, Army Veteran Katie Patterson, whom I have blogged about before. Katie was brutally raped in April 2005 while recovering from surgery in a military hospital. She couldn't cope with the aftermath of the attack. She reported it to her Commander who refused to believe that it happened. With no one to back her, believe her or show any support to this 20 year old soldier, she was placed on an inpatient psychiatric ward. Accused of "acting out" she was wrongly diagnosed with a personality disorder as opposed to a soldier suffering from PTSD due to military sexual trauma. Five months later she was discharged from the Army; with personality disorder stamped on her DD 214.
|Katie and her proud mother|
Katie recently sent me a link to her former Commander. I was sickened at what I read. Her former Commander, a woman by the way, who refused to believe Katie had been sexually assaulted by another SOLDIER, is now holding a very critical position in the Army. Get this. She is a "Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP)" Officer. How do you go from not believing one of your soldiers to being in that kind of a position? Are you kidding me? Katie found her former Commander on a social media sight though I won't tell you which one. She sent her Commander a "friend request" and it was approved. I had to talk Katie down when she saw the position her former Commander is currently filling. I don't blame Katie. I'd be angry, too. That's the same woman who discharged Katie from the Army. That's the very same woman who refused to believe that Katie had suffered a brutal and dehumanizing rape; even with the evidence right in front of her face.
Today, Katie received a note from her former Commander. I'll let you decide for yourself how ironic the message is. Remember, this comes from the woman who signed Katie's discharge papers. This comes from the woman who refused to believe that Katie was raped. This woman called Katie a liar, accused her of malingering and told her she was acting out. This woman kicked Katie out of the Army.
Were you in my company? Either way, glad to see 92Ms out in the world doing great things. I am assuming you know my passion for the Mortuary Affairs field, since you requested my connection.
What do you make of that, my friends? Sure, it's been a long time. Still, I would take that as a slap in the face. She ruined the life of a good soldier. She allowed Katie's assailant to walk away free and clear. She kicked Katie out of the Army and has no recall of doing so. Katie is angry and I don't blame her. How would you feel?
I first blogged about Katie in January 2011. I've gotten to know her very well since then. I've assisted her with claims; watched as she has gone through surgery after surgery; spent hours on the phone with her; and we chat regularly via Facebook. Her strength overwhelms me. She never gives up. No matter what obstacles get in her way, she charges right through them. Nothing, absolutely nothing stops this amazing woman. If she wants something you better believe she will fight for it. Katie eventually gets whatever the hell she is going after. I am honored to know her, have her in my life, call her my friend and my little sister.
|Just one of the many procedures Katie has had to endure|
What happened to Katie is not a singular event. There are thousands upon thousands of MST survivors out there, both male and female. To listen to the military and the media tell it, you'd think this is a new and recent epidemic. Bullshit. I'm here to tell you this is nothing new. It's been going on for decades. Probably centuries but I can't prove that. I know from my own recall of memories that it's been going on since at least the late 70's. I know from speaking with Veterans older than myself that it was going on way before I enlisted in 1976.
A few stories I haven't told:
1. Sitting in the barracks at Fort Jackson on a Saturday night, December 1976, a young private came running into our barracks, beaten and bloody, clothes shredded, screaming she had been raped. I never saw her again.
2. Hearing one of my friends screaming "rape!" in the barracks in Germany, 1978. Her room next to mine. Several us of ran to her room and literally tore her door off the hinges to help her. We beat that man bloody.
3. Being locked in an office during "Alerts" in Germany with the other eight women in my platoon for "my own protection" at night. That's right. Our command knew that the men in my platoon were a threat to us. When we were on alert "lock down" took on a whole new meaning for women soldiers.
4. One of my squad leaders coming on to me so hard that I faked an asthma attack to get away from him. I've never had a breathing problem in my life but he believed me and left me alone.
5. I had an affair with my platoon sergeant my first tour in Germany. I was a Private E2. I didn't know how to say no to him. He was an E7 and married. How do you say no to an E7 when you are a Private, just coming out of AIT? He's your boss. You do as you're told or you pay the consequences. That was a pattern I followed for a long time in my career. I'm very ashamed to admit that. It haunts me to this day.
6. As an E6, Staff Sergeant, I had a Private who worked for me. A really nice kid. I found out she was having an affair with my XO. I did my best to put a stop to it but it didn't work. The Company Commander knew about it. He thought it was cool that the XO was putting it to this young soldier. (His words, not mine.) When the shit hit the fan, there was an Article 15-6 Investigation. I was called in to testify. I gave my statement and revealed that the Commander knew about the affair all along and covered it up. Needless to say, the Commander was furious with me. He told my 1SG, "Get that bitch out of my PAC before I kill her."
I was moved to a different section and lost a position I loved. The XO was a promotable lieutenant and was removed from the Captain's list. The Commander was forced to resign his commission. But what about the Private? Her name was Barb. That's all I remember about her. Her life was trashed. She was a young, innocent, naive Private. I'll bet she suffers from MST from that incident. He was her first. What a horrible experience that had to have been for her. He broke her heart. If you're reading this, Barb, please contact me.
There are more stories I could tell you about my own career. Some more painful than the others. But what point would that prove? This is about Katie Patterson and how unjust and ironic it is that her former Company Commander is now a SHARP Officer. The thought sickens me and I can't even begin to fathom how Katie really feels about it. To receive that note from her former Commander had to have been the biggest slap in the face of all. That's what "they" meant when the phrase "adding insult to injury" was coined. Yes, I talked Katie out of responding negatively to it, but would I have listened to my own advice? I wonder. Would I have shown as much restraint as Katie did? If you've read this blog long enough you know that I'm a hot head and sometimes my temper gets the best of me. In fact, it is all I can do not to blast the name of Katie's former Commander all over this blog post for the world to see.
As a community, what is our responsibility here? Do we single out rotten Commanders like the one who wrongly discharged Katie? Do we start a Facebook page, "Deadbeat Commanders" similar to the "Deadbeat Dads" pages that are so popular? HOW DO WE STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING TO OTHER SERVICE MEMBERS IN THE FUTURE? WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? How do we stop those Commanders who continue to ignore the rapes going on right under their noses? Katie had a police report for cryin' out loud and they still accused her of "acting out". Katie had the evidence in hand and her Commander STILL refused to believe what was put in front of her. What the hell is wrong with people? Where is the fucking justice?
There is a phenomenal documentary coming out on PBS very soon. It's already been shown in many VA Hospitals around the Country. Ask, no, DEMAND, that your Women Veterans Program Manager acquire a copy for your Veterans Hospital and have it shown there. Everyone needs to see this film produced by Marcia Rock and Emmy Award winner Patricia Stotter entitled "Service: When Women Come Marching Home". Some of my dearest friends share their painful stories in "Service". You don't want to miss it. I've seen it. I can't say enough good things about it. Another outstanding documentary you may have seen is the Oscar nominated "Invisible War". Admittedly, I have only seen bits and pieces of "Invisible War". It was way too triggering for me. Many of my friends are in that documentary as well. If you want to see the honest, by G-d truth of what is happening to our women and men in the military, watch these two documentaries. They will teach you a valuable and brutal lesson. Military Sexual Trauma is not a new epidemic. It's been going on for ages and the military doesn't give two shits. That's what these two documentaries will teach you.
There is no easy way to close this post, my friends. If you know my friend Katie, say hello to her on Facebook. Tell her how much you admire and support her. She can use your encouragement right now as she is recovering from yet another major surgery. Any MST survivor can use your support; keep that in mind. If you want to know more about Katie's story, purchase the book she wrote. It's entitled "My Invisible Injury: Living Life with a Traumatic Brain Injury." It's a brilliant book written from the heart. Her life has changed tremendously since she published her story. Personally, I'm hoping for an update. You won't believe the challenges she has faced since her book was published.
Until the next time my friends.....