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Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The shame of the military: harassment, assaults, rapes, and murder to cover it up

Listen up. This is serious, as serious as serious gets. This is hot, rapid-fire stress atop the harrowing, heart-pounding frenzy of war.

These are words that shoot to the heart and remain as a deep, painful wound over a lifetime. These are taunts; This is intimidation; These are sexual assaults; these are attempted rapes; These are rapes; and these are murders to cover up assaults and rapes by "good ole boys" masquerading as men, by fellow soldiers turned monsters, knowing that hurting, maiming, even killing our mothers, sisters and daughters probably will never be reported, and if so, will get them little more than a slap on the wrist. This is the shame of the U.S. military.

The daddy was over at the blog The Intersection of Madness and Reality, where brotha Rippa hits it with a vengeance every day. In a recent post, Rippa says he is against women serving in the military. Yeah: it sounds sexist. Yeah: in a free and democratic society, women should have the same option to serve their country as men. Like men, they should "be all they can be." Ugh huh.

Well, Rippa is against women going into the military as it is presently constituted and cultured, and so is the daddy-- and for the same reason: The way the military treats women who have been , harassed, sexually assaulted, raped or killed by our soldiers is a low-down, murdering shame. In fact, it's the shame of our military. A recent report found that 70% of women in the military are assaulted and 90% of assaults go unreported.

But here's another reason the daddy is against women going into the military: These crimes and further crimes to cover it up have been going on forever, it seems, and the military has done little to stop them. Yeah, they say they provide "sensitivity" training for men. But you know what? They don't say they are not doing the main thing they should do; prosecute to the hilt the soldiers who commit these crimes. Check it out for yourself and you'll find that, for the most part, the military brass either looks the other way or slaps these slimy, arrogant criminals on the wrist.

These guys, these criminals, know this. They know that, first, the crime will probably not be reported and, second, if reported, they will get little more than a demotion or a transfer.
He doesn't know about you, but here's what the daddy is going to do:





1. Get the facts;
2. Find out who the people are on committees that are looking into these crimes;
3.Write to them;
4. Blog about them, promoting those who do something, criticizing those who continue to do nothing; and
5. Write to the Obama administration (I've written them before and they've always responded).

We can't take this sitting down. The daddy is ashamed of the U.S. military. What about you?

Meanwhile, here is an article from BBC news where military women speak for themselves about the horrific nature of these crimes within one of our most important institutions, women who had to fight two wars: one against men shooting bullets at them and another against "men" seeking to sexually assault or rape them.
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Women at war face sexual violence

Female US soldier (file picture)
Over 206,000 US women have served in the Middle East since March 2003

In her new book, The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, Helen Benedict examines the experience of female soldiers serving in the US military in Iraq and elsewhere.

Here, in an article adapted from her book, she outlines the threat of sexual violence that women face from their fellow soldiers while on the frontline, and provides testimony from three of the women she interviewed for her book.

More American women have fought and died in Iraq than in any war since World War II.

Over 206,000 have served in the Middle East since March 2003, most of them in Iraq. Some 600 have been wounded, and 104 have died.

Yet, even as their numbers increase, women soldiers are painfully alone.

In Iraq, women still only make up one in 10 troops, and because they are not evenly distributed, they often serve in a platoon with few other women or none at all.

This isolation, along with the military's traditional and deep-seated hostility towards women, can cause problems that many female soldiers find as hard to cope with as war itself - degradation and sexual persecution by their comrades, and loneliness instead of the camaraderie that every soldier depends on for comfort and survival.

Between 2006 and 2008, some 40 women who served in the Iraq War spoke to me of their experiences at war. Twenty-eight of them had been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped while serving.

They were not exceptions. According to several studies of the US military funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs, 30% of military women are raped while serving, 71% are sexually assaulted, and 90% are sexually harassed.

The Department of Defense acknowledges the problem, estimating in its 2009 annual report on sexual assault (issued last month) that some 90% of military sexual assaults are never reported.

The department claims that since 2005, its updated rape reporting options have created a "climate of confidentiality" that allows women to report without fear of being disbelieved, blamed, or punished, but the fact remains that most of the cases I describe in my book happened after the reforms of 2005.

CHANTELLE HENNEBERRY

Army specialist Chantelle Henneberry served in Iraq from 2005-6, with the 172nd Stryker Brigade out of Alaska.

I was the only female in my platoon of 50 to 60 men. I was also the youngest, 17.

Because I was the only female, men would forget in front of me and say these terrible derogatory things about women all the time.

I had to hear these things every day. I'd have to say 'Hey!' Then they'd look at me, all surprised, and say, 'Oh we don't mean you.'

I was less scared of the mortar rounds that came in every day than I was of the men who shared my food
Chantelle Henneberry

One of the guys I thought was my friend tried to rape me. Two of my sergeants wouldn't stop making passes at me.

Everybody's supposed to have a battle buddy in the army, and females are supposed to have one to go to the latrines with, or to the showers - that's so you don't get raped by one of the men on your own side.

But because I was the only female there, I didn't have a battle buddy. My battle buddy was my gun and my knife.

During my first few months in Iraq, my sergeant assaulted and harassed me so much I couldn't take it any more. So I decided to report him.

But when I turned him in, they said, 'The one common factor in all these problems is you. Don't see this as a punishment, but we're going to have you transferred.'

Then that same sergeant was promoted right away. I didn't get my promotion for six months.

They transferred me from Mosul to Rawah. There were over 1,500 men in the camp and less than 18 women, so it wasn't any better there than the first platoon I was in. I was fresh meat to the hungry men there.

I was less scared of the mortar rounds that came in every day than I was of the men who shared my food.

I never would drink late in the day, even though it was so hot, because the Port-a-Johns were so far away it was dangerous.

So I'd go for 16 hours in 140-degree heat and not drink. I just ate Skittles to keep my mouth from being too dry.

I collapsed from dehydration so often I have IV track lines from all the times they had to re-hydrate me.

MICKIELA MONTOYA

Army specialist Mickiela Montoya served in Iraq for 11 months from 2005-6, with the California National Guard. She was 19 years old.

The whole time I was in Iraq I was in a daze the whole time I was there 'cause I worked nights and I was shot at every night.

Mortars were coming in - and mortars is death! When they say only men are allowed on the front lines, that's the biggest crock of shit! I was a gunner! But when I say I was in the war, nobody listens. Nobody believes I was a soldier. And you know why? Because I'm a female.

There are only three things the guys let you be if you're a girl in the military - a bitch, a ho, or a dyke. You're a bitch if you won't sleep with them. A ho if you've even got one boyfriend. A dyke if they don't like you. So you can't win.

Mickiela Montoya (Picture Credit: Emma O'Connor)
I wasn't carrying the knife for the enemy, I was carrying it for the guys on my own side
Mickiela Montoya

A lot of the men didn't want us there. One guy told me the military sends women soldiers over to give the guys eye-candy to keep them sane.

He told me in Vietnam they had prostitutes, but they don't have those in Iraq, so they have women soldiers instead.

At the end of my shift one night, I was walking back to my trailer with this guy who was supposed to be my battle buddy when he said: 'You know, if I was to rape you right now nobody could hear you scream, nobody would see you. What would you do?'

'I'd stab you.'

'You don't have a knife,' he said to me.

'Oh yes I do.'

Actually I didn't have one, but after that, I always carried one.

I practiced how to take it out of my pocket and swing it out fast. But I wasn't carrying the knife for the enemy, I was carrying it for the guys on my own side.

MARTI RIBEIRO

Air Force Sergeant Marti Ribeiro was assaulted by a fellow serviceman while she was on duty in Afghanistan in 2006.

It's taken me more than a year to realise that it wasn't my fault, so I didn't tell anyone about it.

The military has a way of making females believe they brought this upon themselves. That's wrong.

There's an unwritten code of silence when it comes to sexual assault in the military.

But if this happened to me and nobody knew about it, I know it's happening to other females as well.

Adapted from The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq by Helen Benedict, just released from Beacon Press.

18 comments:

XO said...

You're right. We've heard these horrific reports for years and it's despicable that military authorities have put their heads in the sand. I applaud and will join you in your action steps. I'm curious how such crimes would be handled in the Israeli army where female military service is mandatory. Or Cuba for that matter? My sense is that punishment would be swift, just and deter further crimes.

Christopher said...

Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the military once screened enlistees for psychological traits that pre-disposed them to violent behaviors like rape?

Are the four branches of the military so hard-up for bodies that they now let rapists in?

But, heavens forbid if an open and out gay man or lesbian enlisted. The Pentagon don't like this.

Robbie said...

I have a friend who left my company to join the Army and I worry about her all the time because of this. I hope God keeps her safe, but that report tells me the odds are not in her favor.

rainywalker said...

Your blog is true and well researched. It is sad becuase just like one Veitnam vet makes all the military look bad. The military covers it up amd passes it on to those being discharged and it continues in civilian communities. My approach to this problem while I was in the military would likely sound barbaric. I am no expert and have no solution for a problem that has followed the military for 6000 years. Some men continues to be the animals that climbed out of the trees so long ago.

MacDaddy said...

XO: I'm sure you know about this already. But we all need more info. Please feel free to share what you learn on this blog. So will I. Bless you.

Christopher: I hear they ask a few questions. But obviously they are not effective. I'll get more details later, but they've lowered all kinds of standards in the military, especially the Army. Recently, they've let guys in from white supremist groups. Those guys not only hate people of color. They hate gays, Jews and Catholics as well. More on this later. By the way, if you come up with any info, please share. Blessings.

Robbie: Wishing her well. Let us know how she's doing. And tell her the daddy is pulling for her.

Rainywalker: You kick truth. Every time I get on my high male chauvinist horse and have terrible arguments with my feminist friends, I go home and read about how some of us treat women and say, "No wonder some women hate us!" I just can't believe these guys represent the majority of American men. But who know? I could be wrong.By the way, if you come across any relevant reports, please let us know. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that misogyny and objectification continues to thrive in mainstream culture. I think a lot of people believe women have made great strides against sexism and oppression. But the research in this article suggests it's alive and well. I remember the horrible confusion and self-blame of thinking that a college classmate was my friend only to have them suddenly turn on me and call me a bitch. I had a supervisor in 1978 who was a pillar of the community, a white haired, pot-bellied Lutheran church organist whom everyone loved for his gentle humor and wit. He called me in his office one afternoon and informed me that he could rape me right then and there. I was confused, flustered, and a little scared -- I walked out not knowing quite what to say or do. He fired me two days later.

So not much has changed. What has changed is that it's somewhat easier to find a female physician or lawyer, and there are laws against discrimination. Some wins in the courts. But in relationships, particularly among those who have not been sensitized to these issues through formal or self-education, I'm afraid it still sounds like 1978.

MacDaddy said...

KST: Thanks for becoming a follower, and the daddy is looking forward to you coming back and sharing your insights. Blessings.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there Daddy!

So your position is that until the culture in that construct changes, women SHOULD NOT be part of that?

The same position can be taken for all-black residential areas and black women NOT being part of them at all until things change for them in which their safety and security is a priority for all.

I have another suggestion... how about removing ALL MEN from the military and then the culture will change quickly.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

MacDaddy said...

blackwomenblowthetrumpet: "So your position is that until the culture in that construct changes, women SHOULD NOT be part of that?"
Hi, Lisa. Welcome. And, yes, that's my position. You suggested that maybe the men should leave. Okay, I get the point. It's kind of like saying most of the racism in this country is committed by whites, and they should leave the country. Well, maybe they should leave, but they will not. Maybe men should leave the military, but they will not. After all, like whites who run the country, they benefit from the policy and culture as it is. So what's left, argument for argument sake? No, the art of the possible.

Of course, I take the position that women should not be in the military until it changes its policy AND its culture toward women. And I know some women will continue to go into the Army. But I also think it is possible to raise such hell about the treatment of women using their own reports and their own soldiers (women who have been harassed, assaulted, raped or killed) to get them to go beyond sensitivity training sessions and focus on developing stricter laws and relentless prosecution. Instead of demotion or transfers, these guy should go to prison and get to know some guys with names like Tyrone.

Again, looking at this from the art of the possible, I don't think all women have to stop going into the military. A 50% reduction in women recruited or maybe less could get the military to elevate these offenses to hate crimes and prosecute appropriately.

As for women not being a part of all-back neighborhoods until they are safer, first, most of the neighborhoods are not all-black. Latinos, Hmong, and older whites live in many of them. Second, I think women in these neighborhoods feel they should leave these neighborhoods. And I think they would go further and say they would if they could. But why only mention black women? Most folks are practical, and don't want to live in danger. Unlike joining the military, where it's a practical option, living in these unsafe areas is a sorry but necessary fact of life, at least for the time being. As a person who has worked in poor black communities for years, who has helped people to move, I can say with certainty that these folks already know these areas are not safe for them; and they definitely aren't safe for their children. Their dreams are to get the hell out.

Now, you and I can debate this, you know: get all philospical, sociological, even super-feminist and talk about women being the most vulnerable and related issues (divestment anyone?). Fine, but most of the people in these neighborhoods just want to get out.

...What you have in these poor inner-city communities are situations where no one-- blacks, latinos, whites (usually it's the older whites who are still there),young, old-- is safe; and it exacts a tremendous amount of emotional and physical toil on everyone in the neighborhood.

Comparing black women's choice to become a part of horrible but major U.S. bureaucracy and black women's existence in poor, inner-city neighborhoods is an ambitious stretch, to say the least. And then only looking at the danger of women in these neighborhoods is troubling. No one is safe there, least of all the kids there.

Since men are the problem in the military, suggesting that they leave is a good argument but practically untenable and ultimately unproductive. And comparing black women who choose to go into the military with black women stuck in inner-city neighborhoods is a stretch and ignores others that are not safe either.

Anonymous said...

bro. mac,

as usual your blog has reaffirmed that great minds think alike. I have a laptop now and will be getting a modem and internet connection by the weekend so I can spend a little time checking out your thoughts and things.

I saw this docu/video, A Place of Rage, a few years ago, I was invited to a feminist meeting over at St. Martin's Table, where you had your book signing. And I also fell in love with June Jordan, rspecially the poem about the cops. I went looking everywhere looking for that poem and subsequently got her book. And then I scoured the ½ price book stores and secured a few more of her books. Lo and behold, the Creator is great. I now have the poem I was looking for and a title to boot.

I also share your sentiments about Dr. Angela y. Davis. I had the opportunity to meet and get photographed with her twice. A thousand blessings to you my brother. Baba kwasi

MacDaddy said...

Karlissa: Thanks for signing up to become a follow of daddyBstrong. I'm looking forward to you coming back and hearing what you got to say.

Symphony said...

Thank you for speaking on this. I find the Black blogging world is far too silent about all things military. Sad, considering the number of Black men and women entering and serving this nation. Mental health, post-service jobs and careers, GI Bill, benefits. This all benefits Black men and women and we know this country's history of dealing with its veterans especially the homeless and disabled.

As a Black woman who had to deal with sexual assault in the Army its even sad to notice the silence from Black women who claim to speak up for Black women.

MacDaddy said...

Anon: You say that misogyny and objectification continues to thrive in mainstream culture. I take it, then, that you're saying that we shouldn't be surprised that it thrives in the military. If that's what you're suggesting, I get it. But I'm especially angry that anyone--this includes gay soldiers as well-- would have to put with this in the military, including what they call the military theater, in other words areas where fighting is going on. I know a few people are trying to change it, but those of us who hate that this is going on needs to speak out loudly, including myself.

Symphony: First time at this blog? I hope you'll sign up as a follower, come back and comment. And I agree with your point that the black blogosphere has said little about the military, including black women who claim to speak about issues that affect black women. I hear you, but I think this should be a shared responsibility, including white bloggers as well. These soldiers are serving our country and helping to keep us safe. It is in all of our interest to make sure they are taken care of...Looking forward to hearing from you again.

Symphony said...

Yes, its the military is an issue that all people should be concerned about. Not enough Americans period speak on it. However, when it comes to those who ARE speaking out and blog about it, from what I've seen they tend to be white (and other races) but not black.

MacDaddy said...

"those who ARE speaking out and blog about it, from what I've seen they tend to be white (and other races) but not black."
You're right. As I believed you mentioned in another comment, there are so many blacks in the military. Also, the military has played a hand in black people's lives. Got any ideas as to why so few black blogs or newspapers speak out about the military, good or bad?

Symphony said...

I don't know the makeup of the Black bloggers however there are a lot who have at least one degree, many with at least two. The military is something that may not know anything about.

They may not have been military brats, they may have never served (for the most part). Its not part of their lives so they don't think about it.

Black Talk Media Project© said...

Dr. Johnson, the father of LaVena Johnson would like to speak with the publisher of this blog. He liked the work and effort you put into this blogpost. Please send your contact information to scottyreid@blacktalkradionetwork.com .

Best Regards

MacDaddy said...

Black Media: Tell Mr. Johnson that that Mac Walton is the publisher of this blog. He can be reached at:

Mac Walton
email: culturaldynamics@msn.com or
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home

Thanks.