It Is Not Just About Sexual Assault

Non Survivor, Military Sexual Trauma
I deplore sexual assault and all the destruction that lies in the wake of this crime, which is so prevalent in the military now, that the prevalence itself has become an even worse crime statistic, and a national shame. Stories of the treatment of those who experience military sexual trauma, are made personal to me by looking into the eyes of men and women who have experienced the most personal of attacks that anyone can experience, while serving in our military. These crimes leave lives which will never be without an underlying pain. There are however more than just the direct victims, because those who love them, and those who serve side by side with them and observe the injustices, which by far exceed accountability, are profoundly affected as well. Along with those in the military, every single person who is a proud and honorable American is affected as well. How can we as a nation deplore the way women are treated in the Middle East, when some in our military are harming the women of this country who have volunteered to serve, and the leadership of our military is allowing it? This problem is just the tip of a very dangerous iceberg which is large enough to sink our country. This shameful handling of the most dishonorable of crimes is about abuse of power by those who are without fear of ever being held accountable for their abuse or their crimes. Often, victims in the military report that their perpetrator or perpetrators, brag to the effect, “go ahead, tell whoever you want.” The problem is our collective morals are not guarded fiercely by those in military leadership who have the power to guard them, because in the system, honor is personally costly to a leader at times.

The Global War on Terror has facilitated the promotion of military service persons who should never have been promoted, but were, due to the unprecedented need for leadership created by the national threat which surfaced on the morning of September 1st of 2001. There is, in my opinion, a very specific reason for this phenomenon. How those in the top positions of leadership really rise to the top is an essential part of the equation. I once attended the promotion ceremony of a colonel in the United States Army who had attended the Army War College with my husband. He was extremely humble and honest as he made his speech at the ceremony, and I was very moved and encouraged by that fact. As he spoke, he made a statement much to this effect, “I just can’t believe that I am being promoted and receiving this opportunity and honor, (promoted to a one star general.) I never would have, had we not been engaged in the conflict that we find ourselves in at this time.”

I should explain why, as a non military person, I had opportunity to observe this leader, and many more in the Army, so closely. My husband has always realized the challenges and sacrifices that military families, and those who love the men and women who serve face, especially during time of war. My husband made his Family Readiness Group a high priority as he served as a commander. He knew and understood that the best of those who serve our military really only require two things in return for their devotion: that their leadership be of unquestionable honor and integrity, and that their families, and those they love be taken care of. If you are unfamiliar with what a Family Readiness Group is, what the history and purpose of this organization is, and why it should be an important piece of every command, the link below will explain in detail. There is an official, and mandated by the Department of Defense, specific purpose, mission, and job, for this vital organization. I should add, there is a vast difference in the quality and the amount of support a service person’s family or loved ones receive from any given Family Readiness Group. The reason for this is specifically and repeatedly emphasized in the official Department of Defense document which the following link will take you to, because it is the individual “commander’s responsibility and program.”

I served, at the time of the new general’s command, as the Group Leader for my husband’s FRG, and attended each Battle Assembly at my husband’s personal expense. My office was down the hall from the main activity of the unit, but I was required to attend many official meetings and to hold monthly meetings for the Family Readiness Group. I also observed closely so many Soldiers and their families, and I must say, spending time with the children of those who serve, taught me the most. Serving in this position will always be one of the greatest honors of my life, and a privilege that allowed me to associate with the finest people found among Americans. The United States Military, for the most part, is populated by citizens of this country who are unequaled in their honor, skill, intelligence, professionalism, and humility. Their family members are unsung heroes and heroines of courage and loyalty, that Americans without first hand knowledge of their role, cannot begin to understand. What they have given and endured during the last almost twelve years, will never be grasped by those who have not experienced it.

During those first days of his command the new one star general seemed to me to be every good Soldier’s dream as far as a commander goes. He was “hard charging,” he led by the book and regulations, and he was a “squared away Soldier.” He expressed what appeared to me to be a genuine admiration for my husband and myself, but as time went by, that admiration turned to disdain. My husband and I did not change in any way as this general conducted his first year of command as a “one star,” but the general certainly did.

My husband and myself are rather simple people; we live simply and with frugality; we associate mainly with people who are not regarded by the world in general as important or influential. We are very content in our lifestyle; and we endeavor to live to the best of our ability with honor and integrity. My husband strongly believes that the United States Army has been used by God to bring him many of the blessings of his life. Further, he believes that the honor of the Army is his personal responsibility, and that he owes the organization loyalty and devotion. You will notice that I did not say he necessarily owes the leadership loyalty and devotion, but the Army, the stated philosophy, mission, those he served with, and those who serve and will serve, that is where he believes he owes loyalty and devotion. That is not, I have observed, a popular stance with many of the top brass in today’s military. It is not a position that is rewarded, but rather many of those who are in leadership, especially in the highest ranks, interpret that loyalty and devotion should be held toward them as individuals, regardless of whether that loyalty will support honor.

This is the first in a series of expose type articles I will be writing in an effort to help effect change in a place where it is desperately needed. So many of our service men and women are giving their lives for this country, and many are giving something even more precious. A life given up in battle is often an instantaneous event, death often comes swiftly, while a life forever altered by abuse of power and failure of leadership, is filled with much more personal suffering and loss. As Americans, we owe every person who serves, and their loved ones, support as they perform their sacred duties, and support as well for as long as the burdens of service and war are borne by each of them. As I write these articles, I will think often of the young woman in these photos, her name was Carri Leigh Goodwin, she was a Marine, like her father. She did not survive her military sexual trauma, and was no longer a Marine when she took her own life, very shortly after being discharged from service.

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