As a child I’d always wanted to serve my country so joining the U.S. Coast Guard was a dream come true, I loved the discipline, the camaraderie and helping others. There was just one problem —my supervisor. From the moment I came under his charge, he singled me out for abuse and harassment. My appeals to his superiors fell on deaf ears, and one night he entered my room, hit me so hard he dislocated my jaw, and then raped me.
When I stumbled out from my bunkroom to report the incident, I was told by my commander (a close friend of my assailant) that I was a liar and “disrespectful non-rate.” Five years since the incident, I am no longer in the coast guard and my jaw still has not received surgery while my assailant continues to enjoy a successful military career.
The real horror though is that my story is not unique. I am one one of hundreds of thousands of men and women who’ve been raped by fellow soldiers while serving their country and then disbelieved and exiled. All too often, we ourselves are punished for reporting, and eventually, despite laudable careers, discharged.
According to Department of Defense estimates, over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010 alone. Over the past 5 decades, more than 500,000 U.S. Soldiers have been assaulted.
Even worse, unlike the civilian world where rape victims can turn to an impartial police force and justice system for help, in the military, rape victims can only appeal to their command—a move that is all too often met with foot-dragging at best, and harsh reprisals at worse. As a result, only eight percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted, and far less result in significant prison time.
We, as a society, can no longer allow this criminal epidemic to continue unabated. We are losing too many good soldiers to an unjust system.
Please join us in asking the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard “Buck” McKeon and the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Carl Levin and the leadership of the House and Senate to support the STOP Act and the Holley Lynn James Act in 2012.
These two bills would be the first steps in attempting to alleviate the suffering of military sexual trauma survivors and your overwhelming support of this legislature will send a clear message to the Department of Defense that it needs to take immediate measures to take the decision to investigate and prosecute rape crimes out of the hands of commanders.
Thanks for caring,