Sexual trauma in the military
During Sexual Violence Awareness Week, Women’s and Gender Studies and the Department of Politics co-sponsored the “Invisible War,” a documentary addressing sexual assault in the military.
The documentary opens with various women reminiscing on why they joined the military. Some women joined because of a family history based on service, but other appeals included the comradery and leadership opportunities.
The women didn’t take into consideration the possibility of sexual assault when deciding whether or not to join.
In the Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for fiscal year 2016, an estimated 6,172 service members were sexually assaulted.
The women emphasized the abuse in power in that the men perpetrating the crime typically being of higher rank. One of the women giving testimony was stationed on a remote base in Alaska. She desperately wanted to tell her father what happened to her, but one fact stopped her.
“The same people listening to the call was going to hurt me.”
Examples like this made reporting difficult due to the assailants having the authority to dismiss their claims. Each woman experienced a short investigation into their case that typically ended in their creditability being questioned.
The documentary also include testimony from men. A man’s creditability is also doubted in regards to sexual assault. The shame that accompanies the crime is worst for men because of the gender expectation of men being strong providers and protectors—never victims.
“Masculinity cannot be victimized, but sexual assault is everyone.”
Sexual assault has nothing to do with sexuality—it is based on power and dominance.
The 2016 Annual Report also conducted an anonymous survey that found 14,900 service members had experienced some form of sexual assault ranging from groping to rape.
The documentary also dispels common myths such as sexual assault being a spontaneous act and perpetrators being strangers to their victims. University of Minnesota conducted research on the sociology of rape and found that most survivors know their rapist. Research also proved that a rapist will rape again and again, usually in the same area of town and in the same way.
“The military is a rich environment for a predator.”
Rape-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) is a common diagnosis for survivors, but those who have served typically suffer PTSD from both the rape and their experience in the military.
The survivors from the documentary all wished for their assailants to be impacted by their crime.
Chris Donevant-Haines, the assistant director of Wellness Outreach and a counselor at Counseling Services, was also there to provide support for those who needed it.