Obama Addresses Rape of Co-eds But Not Servicemen
Let’s give President Barack Obama his due. Last week he announced his “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault of women on college campuses. All decent people agree that the sexual assault of women is a cultural evil that we must continually work to expose and end.
While the cause of raising awareness in the hope of ending violence against women on campus is noble and critically important, Obama’s motives may be less noble and more self-serving. Cynical minds suspect this may be part of his get-out-the women-to-polling places campaign.
If that isn’t his motive, then why the deafening silence on the sexual assault of men in the military. GQ Magazine has a September article that is excruciatingly painful to read. Men tell their stories of brutal sexual assaults during their military service and the devastating life-altering aftermath.
They also share their frustration with the worse than inadequate response by the military bureaucracy, which is set-up to address sexual assaults on women but not men. The military is not adequately addressing this problem. Congress is not adequately addressing it. And President Obama certainly is not adequately addressing it, even as he addresses the sexual assault of women on campus.
Here are some stories of the stories profiled in the GQ article on an issue to which Obama could and should increase awareness (WARNING: graphic details):
- Kole Welsh, Army, 2002-07: I had actually let the assault go, because I didn’t want it to interfere with my career. I wanted to be an officer, and I just said, ‘Bad experience, won’t let that happen again.’ But there was some residual damage. A month and a half later, I was brought into a room with about nine officers and told, “You’ve tested positive [for HIV].” I was removed from the military and signed out within a day. It was a complete shock.
- Heath Phillips,Navy, 1988-89: The two main guys—their nickname was the Twin Towers. They held themselves like they were God and untouchable. They were both six feet five or above, 250 pounds. I weighed maybe 120 pounds soaking wet. As soon as the Twin Towers came near you, you instantly wanted to pee yourself. The main attacks were at night. When you’re being dragged out of your bunk literally by your ear, you can’t fight, because they’re doing these funky things with your fingers, twisting them, and they’re ripping your mouth open, and then they got another guy that has his fingers in your nose or in your eyes to make you open your mouth. That’s what always used to bother me: I’m screaming, yelling, fighting, and nobody is even moving their curtains to look. I went AWOL; I couldn’t take it no more. I tried hanging myself. I was living in the streets, and I got arrested shoplifting, and they sent me to the brig. Then I got sent back to the same berthing area, where they started terrorizing me again. The final straw was, I was taking a shower and these guys beat me up and raped me with a toilet brush. Medical told me I probably had a hemorrhoid. I went AWOL again, then turned myself in a couple of days later. Finally my executive officer came back [proposing] I take an other-than-honorable discharge.
- Steve Stovey: As a man, I can’t perform the way I used to. I just feel damaged. All I remember, along with the pain, is the slapping sound of being raped. I try to make love to my wife, but I can’t—I’m triggered. I’m traumatized by that sound.
- Matthew Owen, Army, 1976-80: One night I was getting ready to go into my room in the barracks when a blanket was put over my head. I heard five different male voices, which I recognized, because I had heard these voices when they harassed me every day. They beat me down onto the floor and forced my legs open. Then they took the end of a broomstick and forced it into me again and again. Each time it felt like my insides were coming out. The blood was a blessing, because it seemed to lubricate the broomstick.
And here are some deeply troubling facts from the GQ article:
- More than half of the victims of sexual assault in the military are men.
- Every day 38 men are sexually assaulted in the military.
- When a man enlists in the military, his risk of being sexually assaulted increases ten-fold.
- In sheer numbers, more men experience Military Sexual Trauma (MST) than women. Almost 14,000 men were sexually assaulted in 2012 alone.
- Sexual assault on men results in a particularly toxic form of PTSD
Men are even less likely to report sexual assault than women (which points to the inherent differences between men and women). The reasons range include shame, fear of physical retaliation, professional ruin, and social stigma.”
Here are some excerpts from Obama’s speech that launched his campaign to raise awareness of campus sexual assault:
When they finally make it onto campus, only to be assaulted, that’s not just a nightmare for them and their families; it’s not just an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve—it is an affront to our basic humanity. It insults our most basic values as individuals and families, and as a nation. We are a nation that values liberty and equality and justice.
For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence, the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack. It lingers when you don’t know where to go or who to turn to….It’s a haunting presence when the very people entrusted with your welfare fail to protect you.
We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should. We make excuses. We look the other way.
It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.”
Perhaps Obama could speak these words to and about the young men who volunteer to serve America at great personal risk and sacrifice and who, like college co-eds, deserve to be protected from the shattering violence of sexual assaults.
While the government is cleaning up the Veterans Affairs mess, they should be cleaning up this mess, and Obama should be leading the effort even if it doesn’t garner Democrats a single vote.
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