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Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

“The knife … was for the guys on my side.”

Good Goddess, can it be much worse than that — that your most urgent and daily fears are about what your “buddies” might do to you, you know, the ones who are supposed to help protect you, watch your back? Shudder.

I’ve spent most of today so far immersing myself in more about the military’s treatment of women, including revisiting some old links I had.

In addition to the LaVena Johnson case, there’s also Suzanne Swift. She’s very much alive, thankfully, but she’s been through her own kind of hell. VoxExMachina talks about her case at I Need to Calm Down.

Would that these two cases were all that we needed to be concerned about. Unfortunately, LavVena Johnson’s father has himself been introduced to the tip of the iceberg:

“[LaVena’s father] John Johnson has discovered far more stories that have matched his daughter’s than he ever wanted to know. Ten other families of ‘suicide’ female soldiers have contacted him. The common thread among them — rape.”

As I hope anyone reading this recognizes, yes of course we want justice for these two women, but we also want all our other military women protected from the predators who are their countrymen. CountryMEN, I’d like to restate for emphasis. It’s time to rise above individual stories to address the whole problem.

How bad is it? Very bad:

A 2003 survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.

A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all the wars since, who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while in the military.

And in a third study, conducted in 1992-93 with female veterans of the Gulf War and earlier wars, 90 percent said they had been sexually harassed in the military, which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at.

I understand that that last figure citing sexual harrassment could be seen as far less serious than rape or sexual assault, but I think that would be an erroneous assumption or conclusion. First, I can assure you that sexual harrassment is itself a horrific, disempowering “assault” on any woman, especially someone young and isolated, as our women in the military and especially in the war zone are.

Second, an incidence of 90% is sky high — a terrible marker indicating far more serious, systemic problems. It seems inevitable to me that any organization with that high an incidence of victims of sexual harrassment would also have a proportionally high incidence of rape and other sexual assault. No surprises there.

Now, why does it matter? Can’t these women just buck up and get on with their lives? In a word, No. Our women and men are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan scarred for life because of the PTSD from being in combat (and yes, women ARE in combat). And in addition — a second burden the men for the most part don’t have to shoulder — our women are coming home with PTSD from the sexual assaults they endure, a malady that will likely dog them for most if not all the rest of their live unless they get superb psychological care:

“Some women do fairly well while they’re in the military and don’t fall apart until after they’ve been discharged,” said Callie Wight, a psychotherapist who has been treating trauma survivors, including veterans, for 16 years. “Some women can’t hold it together while they’re in the military because of the PTSD they’ve begun to experience, and so begin to fall apart while they’re in the military … PTSD symptoms are a normal reaction to an abnormal experience.”

PTSD is often associated with mental symptoms: inability to sleep, extreme nervousness, anxiety, and the ability to be easily startled. Wight has found from her work over the past 10 years with female survivors of sexual trauma, that many women also suffer physical symptoms, especially when they don’t seek medical help for their PTSD.

“She’s desperately trying to forget about what happened to her, get over it and get back to what was her normal style of functioning,” said Wight. “But what happens with psychological trauma experiences is unless that trauma is really dealt with consciously, in a therapeutic way, all of those attempts to put it behind her only serve to suppress the information, not eliminate it.”

Physical symptoms can include chronic pelvic pain and irritable bowel syndrome. Some women also become bulimic, compulsive eaters, and abusers of drugs and alcohol — their attempts to “self-medicate” rather than seek professional help.

Even just sexual harrassment can be extremely wearing — not to mention dangerous in a war zone:

In the current Iraq war, which Pickett spent refueling and driving trucks over the bomb-ridden roads, she was one of 19 women in a 160-troop unit. She said the men imported cases of porn, and talked such filth at the women all the time that she became worn down by it. “We shouldn’t have to think every day, ‘How am I going to go out there and deal with being harassed?'” she said. “We should just have to think about going out and doing our job.”

which includes trying to stay alive, and keeping their “buddies” alive too. If their mind are filled with fear and loathing, that kind of focus is going to be much harder to keep. Sexual harrassment and sexual assault of our women can put ALL our troops’ lives at increased unnecessary danger.

I wonder if any of us can even imagine the type of “filth” that she’s talking about? Here’s one woman’s description of what she endured in the Army (please do yourself a favor and read her brilliant essay in its entirety), and it takes my breath away each time I read it:

I just wanna take that piece of ass body, put tape over her mouth, and do things to her. . And then like, I reach in, I yank out her vocal cords and then she just orally satisfies me by the pool. Oh, she’s totally a mute Kim. And she’s totally nude. . And then I break her legs and position them in the back of her head so that she’s sitting, and they’re permanently fixed like that.

I don’t think I could endure hearing that kind of thing more than once. I don’t know what I would do, or what would happen to me, but I do know it’s almost more than I can bear just to read it.

To be continued, hopefully this evening. Much more to come.

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And so must the military’s outrageous and corrupt cover-ups. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and now I have to write about it again because it won’t leave me alone.

I have been deeply troubled by not just the story of LaVena Johnson, but also of all the other military women, especially those who are asked to serve in Iraq and any other places in that field in support of this tragically misguided war (or anyplace in the whole entire military, actually, but it seems especially frequent in the war zone). Here’s a repost of a shocking article about the subject.

If you haven’t, please watch (more…)

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Almost always scantily clad. (Hmm, wonder why that is?)

I’m so terribly tired of women’s bodies being used to sell stuff. Aren’t you? This image was taken from DU a short while ago. It’s an ad (obviously), using a scantily clad disembodied portion of the female form.

I should think that this sort of “ad” wouldn’t be allowed on a “progressive website,” but I’d be wrong, wouldn’t I? (And don’t imagine I’m “against” the female form — quite the opposite is true. I’m just against its commercialized/commoditized overused MISuse.)

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1. Okay, Heather Wilson is bad, but not that bad.

One poor fool holds Congresswoman Wilson responsible for her husband’s alleged sexual assault of a teenage boy:

Anyone married to that beast would be capable of very evil sex deeds.

Sheesh. Is that sexism gratuitous enough for ya? It’s clear the guy doesn’t even mean it, yet simply has to say it anyway. Can’t stop himself. Ugly. Unnecessary. And yet it’s allowed to stand without being removed.

2. News stories on two of the North Carolina women murdered: Holly Wimunc and Nancy Cooper.

I’ve been thinking some more about the threat to our military women posed by our military MEN. More to come on that.

3. How to be a feminist activist without having to work too hard or risk jail at feministgal. Good piece. One of my first “lessons” about political activism was that merely voting is a form of activism.

4. Feministing does a very good job of revealing the bankrupt logic of PETA’s use of women’s naked bodies to capture public attention. (Is THAT gratuitous enough for ya?)

5. Everyone agrees: Purity Balls are creepy to the max.

Well, perhaps not the male half of those participating. But who knows?

There’s a very good reason for the overwhelming negative reaction by the rest of us. I think most psychologists would refer to the practice as incestuous on some level. Emotionally incestuous, perhaps. There’s something quite unnatural, I think, (not to mention highly inappropriate) about a father being overly interested in his daughter’s sex life.

Sure, he has a right to be concerned about her — but not quite to this extent and not in this way. Not to the extent he spends much time thinking or imaging or talking about it or having grown-up style formal dances around the subject. Not to the extent he makes her promise her sexual fidelity to HIM. No, no, no, not right at all!

To be honest, I think this practice is almost worse than being chattel. At least chattel has no overt sexual context.

We’ll talk more about sex and young women in the days to come too. I’ve got a lot to say on the subject.

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