<\body> Stories in America: Perpetuating the Cycle of Military Sexual Violence

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Perpetuating the Cycle of Military Sexual Violence

This was written by Suzanne Swift's mom, Sara Rich:
172 days since Suzanne's "arrest" and the Army,
General Dubick and Colonel Miller specifically,
are bound and determined to ignore the fact that
their Sergeant sexually abused my daughter.
Instead, they are making her abuser's prophetic
words to my daughter a reality. "Swift, you look
like you are going to tell someone about what
happened between us. Nobody will believe you."

Suzanne believed him then -- and now she is
learning that he spoke from experience. Suzanne
was sexually abused in a combat zone in Iraq by
her squad leader, a Non Commissioned Officer who
took an OATH to protect the soldiers working
beneath him. By ignoring that fact, Dubick and
Miller give other sexual predators in the
military the green light. Their message is that
victims of sexual abuse in the military are
systematically punished and not believed, while
the perpetrators go free to abuse again.

Shame on them.

As I listen to story after story the same thing
comes up: the perpetrators use fear and
intimidation and tell the victim that no one will
believe them. Coerced sexual abuse in the
military is a monstrous epidemic and still the
lack of care and understanding shocks me.

Even though we know this is not a gender specific
occurrence, the majority of military sexual
violence is perpetrated against women. It is
literally true that women are not safe to serve
their country in the military. Especially while
command staff continues to "sweep under the
carpet" these victims' stories, both ignoring
their painful traumas and exacerbating their pain
and suffering by not believing them.

Suzanne's last few months have been a horrifying
roller coaster ride. She was charged with missing
a movement and for going absent without leave.
Since then her future has been more unclear than
ever. One day we are told she will be home by
Halloween -- the next that she is going to
prison. Then she was told there is a deal on the
table.

A deal? Well, I was very skeptical of that.

The deal was that Suzanne stay in the military
for her remaining 19 months, no reduction in
rank, a summary court-martial, no assurance she
would not be re-deployed and here is the kicker,
Suzanne would sign a statement saying she was not
raped in Iraq.

I did not know about the statement until days
later when Suzanne called me very upset. Here was
my 22-year-old daughter making huge life
decisions and she was distressed. First she felt
that after all this struggle, that to stay in the
military would be too hard and scary, but she was
willing to do it until they told her about the
statement.

When she heard about it her immediate thought
was, "Here it goes, this is the part where the
abuse gets swept under the carpet." I asked her
what she wanted to do. She said she did not want
to sign it because it was not true and she was
not going to lie.

Once again, I say shame on the military for
re-victimizing this young soldier whom according
to her team leader, was the best soldier he had.
Further, her Major who said she acted admirably
in combat -- and Suzanne did see combat. She told
her little 10-year-old cousin when he asked her
about her time in Iraq that she was fired at more
times than she can remember.

I know my daughter better than anyone else in the
world. I know the good, the bad and the ugly. I
also know that it was her complete intention to
go on that January 2006 deployment to Iraq. She
sent some of her most precious possessions over
ahead with her Unit. The same Unit that divvied
up her belongings and left some of her childhood
treasures to the trash heap in Iraq.

I saw the look of terror and fear in her eyes
while she was standing in our kitchen trying to
say goodbye to me. Her fear and anxiety are real
and her stress levels increase daily as does her
depression. I trusted the system that they would
care for my daughter, not allowing my daughter to
be used and abused by seasoned predators in a
combat zone.

Then to only add to injury when she finally does
use the proper channels and makes a formal
complaint she is humiliated and treated like a
traitor for telling. Boys will be boys, they say.

Does anyone get this? Why in the world are our
federal elected officials not stopping this? Why
do my pleas for help fall on ears that seem
unable to hear me?

How is it that these commanders can go home at
night knowing that hundreds of women are
systematically abused by perpetrators, then
re-abused by the lack of care of the command?

I know my Grampa, who was a Colonel in the Army,
is turning in his grave by this thoughtless and
destructive manner in which General Dubick and
Colonel Miller are toying with my daughter's
mental health. She has been diagnosed with post
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) twice now and
yet they continue to move forward with a court
martial and threat of prison time.

A more disturbing threat was brought to my
awareness a few weeks ago. A dear family friend
came to me in tears because she was so scared for
Suzanne's safety while she is in the Army. One of
her relatives had just returned from a tour in
Iraq. He was furious to find that she was friends
with "Suzanne Swift." He does not know Suzanne
personally but now he hates her and what she
represents.

He told our friend that while he was in Iraq he
was at a training, a sexual abuse "prevention"
training. In this training the trainer used
Suzanne's name, Suzanne Swift, and her case, as
an example of what little lying whores do to
"good soldiers." This second hand story scared me
to the very core.

If this is what is being taught to other
soldiers, especially in Iraq, I fear for
Suzanne's very life in the military. She has now
at least once been de-humanized and demonized by
others in the military and she is not safe. I
have been asked to find out names and get the
facts, but our family friend was scared to death
to tell us what she did. I could not ask her to
find out more and put herself at risk. Now we
have two demons that our soldiers hate in Iraq,
"hadjis" and "Suzanne Swift."

What is our world becoming where we not only
re-victimize but also demonize victims of a crime?

As we are now on this very long and very painful
journey, I travel around the country talking
about military sexual violence and how we must
change the system. I have met some incredible
people. One minute we think Suzanne will be free
in a few weeks, so I slow down and stop the
frantic fundraising. The next minute I hear we
are going to court-martial and I need to have
a substantial amount of money immediately or else.

I want to send out a huge appreciation to
everyone who has supported Suzanne with prayers,
thoughts, words, finances, action, and letters.
Please keep Suzanne's website set as your home
page so we can all remember to DO something
everyday: http://suzanneswift.org .

Take action by calling your Congressional
Representatives and Senators demanding a
significant change in the way military sexual
abuse survivors are treated. Ask if they know
about Suzanne's case, and what they are doing to
help her.

Call Ft. Lewis and ask for General Dubick and
Colonel Miller and ask them if they will bring
quick justice to Suzanne, so she can be free to
heal from the trauma she experienced fighting two
battles at once in Iraq. Phone numbers are on
Suzanne's website: http://suzanneswift.org .
Write to your paper's editorial board and ask
them to cover military sexual violence.

This year has been incredibly stressful on our
family. Despite it all we are blessed beyond
belief. I will continue to work tirelessly as an
advocate for my daughter, until I see her free of
this cruel system that punishes victims while
perpetrators are allowed to go free. I will not
rest until I see her free for the holidays so she
can be here when her sister, Sonja, who is due to
give birth on Christmas day, goes into labor and
is surrounded by her whole family to welcome our
new little miracle boy into the world.

Peace on Earth good will to men AND women... right?

2 Comments:

At 11/30/2006 12:51 PM, Blogger Jack Boo said...

I have a question that you might be able to answer...According to Ft. Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek, "In this investigation, she has never claimed that she was abused or raped."

Nonetheless, the website, SuzanneSwift.org, claims actual rape occurred in addition to sexual harassment.

What up?

 
At 12/01/2006 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Piek is lying or someone has fed him the wrong information.

 

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