Rape is an Occupational Hazard

St. Scholastica's Student Newspaper
The Cable
By: Justina Brusacoram  - Student Journalist - By: Alexandra Crum  - Student Journalist -
Photo credit to youtube.com

Photo credit to youtube.com

"I'm not your soldier, your veteran, your b***h/I joined to get older, to get out of the ditch/ I thought serving my country would make me worthy/but I learned that my country doesn't serve me/so now I'm not your veteran, not yours to defend/ to you I'm invisible so you can pretend/pretend that laws are unbroken, and that rape is a lie/my suffering unspoken, you'd rather I die/so I'm not your VA malpractice, your violated vet/ you can sleep easy ‘til its your kids they get"

Robin Temple ended a nearly twelve minute video recently posted on YouTube with this poem. Her video, entitled "My Story" detailed her experience with multiple Veteran's Affairs malpractice incidents as well as her rape by a commanding officer while serving in the military and the military's cover-up of the incident. When Temple refused to sign a piece of paper claiming that she made up the rape, which lasted twelve hours, she was committed to a psychiatric hospital and given illegal doses of Haldol and Lithium until she was freed 115 days later thanks to the intervention of members of Congress that remained unnamed. "I got my honorable discharge, but there was no honor in what happened to me," she said.

Temple is not alone in her experience. In 2009, 3,230 sexual assaults on service men and women were reported to the Department of Defense, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. According to the DOD, 80% of the military sexual assault victims don't come forward. Its important to note that sexual assault is not limited to women, and male victims have an even lower rate of reporting. The 2012 documentary The Invisible War cites these statistics in an effort to raise awareness in the serious problem of sexual violence in the military. The Invisible War also points out that the Department of Defense's statistics represent less than 5% of all reported cases.

Reasons for the low rate of formal reports and the discrepancy in the DOD's data are explored in the documentary. "They made it clear that if I said anything, they would kill me. The people perpetrating me were the police," said Trina McDonald, a former Navy officer interviewed in The Invisible War. Other reasons proposed for not coming forward about rape and sexual assault include loss of rank and/or promotion, destruction of the victim's credibility, and the possibility of facing of charges themselves. In her own video, Temple mentions losing out on a promotion because she complained about her commanding officer's unwanted attentions. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that rape is an occupational hazard of military service, basically condoning it.

The effects of rape and sexual assault are life long. It is estimated that about 40% of homeless female veterans have been raped. Their ability to maintain a job or stable lifestyle has been impacted by the trauma they experienced at the hands of their assailant. Women who have been raped in the military have a greater rate of Post-traumatic stress disorder than men who have been in combat. When survivor Kori Cioca explained why she carried a large knife and cross everywhere she went, she said " You always have the protection of Jesus, but sometimes you need a little more." The military culture of victim-blaming, too, has both psychological and legal effects. Many women face charges of adultery, indecency, and perjury after reporting rape. A program designed to combat sexual violence in the military, known as the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, focuses almost entirely on what the victim can do to avoid inviting rape rather than discouraging the potential rapists. The Invisible War aims to bring awareness of the occurrence of these crimes and help survivors cope with their tragedy. More information can be found at www.not invisible.org, or at the documentary's Facebook page. Robin Temple's story can be found on YouTube, titled My Story.