WOMEN VETERANS-YOUR VOICE FOR CHANGE Fighting military rape culture
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We are women. We are strong. We are troops, soldiers and shipmates.
We serve this country. We fight for others, but who fights for us? #WERISE
I am fighting back not only on my behalf, but for those that feel like they can't. I am here to tell you that your voice matters. Your fight matters and together we can challenge and be the change we want to see.
BACKSTORY: On October 11, 2017, former shipmates notified me that I was on a public page called "Shit my LPO says". There I found myself once again amidst a sexual harassment battle by my own "brother and sisters in arms", but instead of using their arms to protect me they used them to drown me. A uniform photo of me was stolen, altered with a pornography logo and posted on a their Facebook page of over 120k followers comprised of mostly active duty and veterans. The thousands of comments that ensued after celebrated the sexual violence of me. Although, there were 2 male Marines in the photo, I was the only one attacked because I was a women. Through this nightmare I was told to just "take it" because as a female in the military this is what I signed up for. And that I deserve this harassment because I have nice photos and because I didn't "ask properly" to have them removed, that I asked for it. Another comment stated that I was lucky to be out because I would have "fell off the ship" in the middle of the night. Are these the stories of some sailors who fall overboard? MY GOD!
It's hard not to feel that this was another personal attack because while active duty, I was subject to harassment, but when I spoke up I was retaliated against and my command swept it under the rug (along with other issues). And now 2 years later, I seem to find myself being sexually harassed again and this time it is being accompanied by cyber bullying via social media on a large platform. The day after NCIS launched an investigation and my story was published online at Navy times , which only amplified the harassment. They attacked me on that page, the MCPON page (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) and on a fellow Facebook page with over 150k followers. The few who stood up for me were attacked too. The cyber criminals even found a way to profit from my harassment by selling T-shirts. All while thanking the Navy times for bringing them attention, thus generating their revenue. As a small business owner, I had to un-publish and detach my pages because they were under fire after they posted my information publicly. Their harassment expanded to over 12 Facebook posts, Instagram, Twitter and their external website. The FBI is aware as well as my state Congressman and between him and direct resources at Facebook headquarters, I was able to get the page shut down. The original page was reported numerous times and yet Facebook did nothing. It shouldn't take Facebook HQ and a Congressman to shut down sexual harassment/threats and cyber bullying.The offenders have since created another page referencing my harassment, as well as a third back-up page.
I don't want anyone to ever feel as helpless as I felt that first day. Let alone feel they can't fight back because they aren't rich enough or well connected enough. What happens to Jane Doe in a small town that gets harassed? Does she just suffer until she feels suicide is her only way out? We are #notinvisible
EXPOSING THE UNDERLYING ISSUE:
This behavior is revolting and dishonorable. My story has helped to expose once again a very prevalent issue women service members face daily. Sadly, many choose the bystander route because it's easier or they choose not to fight because it doesn't directly affect them. Yes, we chose to serve our country, but we certainly didn't sign up to be continuously subjected to sexual harassment, assaults and rape by OUR OWN "comrades". And if we are targeted, why is our Chain of Command failing to protect us? Why are we attacked and humiliated when we choose to speak up? Why can't there be outside reporting, other than the Chain of Command? Why do offenders remain hidden? Why are many transferred, not punished? Why don't military offenders have a criminal record that follows them for doing criminal actions? Many women do not speak up because of all the barriers, whether it be stigma, ridicule or people along the journey who really could care less.
JUST TAKE IT BECAUSE I HAD TOO....Another surprise to me, were the women who joined in to fuel the fire along with the men. They believed that if they had to go through it, then I should too, that getting harassed and "taking it" is a sign of toughness, a rite of passage and the hazing is merely a standard that happens in the military. This disturbed me even more, to know that instead of helping to extinguish the flames, they added to it because they were, at one point, subjected themselves.
The VA has had an increase in PTSD of women veterans along with higher suicide rates. It's 2017 and the number of women will continue to rise as we serve alongside our male counterparts. The military training of sexual harassment, assault and rape does nothing when the culture and chain of command is toxic. Let alone when matters such as this are taken lightly. The active duty members who added to my defamation of character are punishable under the UCMJ: Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Veterans saying to "suck their DD-214" can be punished under Civil Law, yet it's still a laughing matter?
So why aren't these training sessions working? Is it the delivery? Are the commands still sweeping issues under the rug? Are the recruiters caring to much about quantity and not quality? Or is it because punishment is too much extra work? I have witnessed first hand the laughter that ensues while this serious training is being conducted. The fact that we need to repeatedly tell adults to NOT harass others and NO means NO is alarming, but to repeatedly remind our MILITARY MEMBERS is a shame in itself. These are supposed to be our representatives for the United States and yet they encouraged and celebrated the sexual violence of not only me, but many other women service members and veterans. Most people hold the military to a higher standard, but this disgusting behavior degrades those who actually serve by the core values of HONOR, COURAGE and COMMITMENT. I honestly think that if my harassment/physical interactions were properly handled in accordance with the standards they preach and punished back then. I wouldn't be dealing with this 2 years later on a public scale. If situations like this were taken seriously, shut down and punished immediately. I believe harassment, abuse, assaults and rapes would decrease because the precursor would be directly addressed.
When will harassment, cyber bullying, rape and assaults stop? Or even be recognized to it's fullest extent? When will women veteran voices be heard? We are told to be a soldier, stand strong and fight for freedom. Yet, we are prisoners in a cage of helplessness when we choose to fight back. We fight for others......
Now.......Who will fight for us?
What I’d like to accomplish/possible solutions:
- Update/tighten cyber bullying, defamation of character, harassment & stalking laws (List of state laws)
- Demand more accountability on social media platforms & a stronger verifying method for account users (Goes for new created media platforms/apps i.e. requirement)
- Implement or add a more direct emergency line for media platforms (reporting is failing/ offer more options than hide or block content, but actually addressing it directly)
- Increase punishment & consequences for cyber criminals and offenders (maybe they'll think twice)
- Be a voice for women, especially women service members (just because you aren’t well connected or wealthy shouldn’t be a factor when you are ready fight back)
- Lower the suicide rate for cyber related incidents (Cyber related suicides)
- No more #metoo's (Sexual Assault Reports in U.S. Military Reach Record High) because #WERISE
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