A Black Rose

 
 
According to Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA14), if a soldier sexually assaults a fellow service member, they have an 86.5 percent chance that their victim won’t say anything. Even if the victim comes forward, there is a 92 percent chance the perpetrator will never see a court-martial.

Other disturbing statistics paint a grim picture, including:

  • In 2012, it was estimated that 6.1 percent of the entire active-duty female force had been the victim of military sexual trauma, which was an increase from the previous year, according to a Department of Defense press conference held on May 7. Based upon command climate surveys, that accounts for about 12,000 women.
  • In the same year, the same surveys estimated that 1.2 percent of the active-duty male force suffered military sexual trauma, accounting for about 14,000 men.
  • In 2012, only about 17 percent of incidence were reported, and far fewer were ever prosecuted.
  • The military does not maintain a sex offender registry, which means that offenders can simply be transferred to a new unit or command or voluntarily leave the military and no one would know that they had victimized someone unless they are prosecuted, convicted, and discharged, in which case they are subject to civilian registration laws.
  • A study by Dr. Gene Abel, a leader in sex offender research, found that the average number of victims for an un-incarcerated sex offender is seven. The same study showed that, of those surveyed, 126 men admitted to committing 907 rapes against 882 victims, which means that some were victimized more than once.
“We’re all outraged and disgusted over these very troubling allegations. Sexual assault is a despicable crime and one of the most serious challenges facing this department. It’s a threat to the safety and the welfare of our people and the health, reputation and trust of this institution,” said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the May 7 presser.

“This department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission and to recruit and retain the good people we need,” he added.

Given the widespread accounts of military sexual trauma, occurring from recruiting offices to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office for the Air Force, Hagel’s assessment could well be an understatement of the problem.

The Silent Victims

Perhaps one of the most startling realizations for some is that men are victimized just as much as women are. There is still a widespread myth that men can’t be sexually assaulted, that they must have “wanted it” or that they are simply being troublemakers. They are nearly always discouraged from reporting the attacks, often having to endure working and living in the same close quarters as their attackers.

According to Brian Lewis, a male survivor, not only do men experience this form of “secondary victimization,” there are few services immediately available to male victims afterward, even though the Veteran’s Administration reports that 40 percent of those seeking mental health treatment for military sexual trauma were male.

It often takes significantly longer for male victims to seek treatment than female victims — decades in some cases — because of the intense shame that male victims experience and the tough-guy culture of the military itself.

Long-Term Costs

While the VA doesn’t break down the individual costs associated with treating military sexual trauma, figures show that more than 85,000 veterans sought treatment and more than 4,000 sought disability benefits.

According to the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), the VA spent nearly $872 million on treatment related to military sexual trauma. Whatever the monetary costs of treating military sexual trauma are, it’s clear that the number is staggering and only goes up as more victims seek treatment.

According to a May 20 article by the AP, “a veteran with a 50 percent rating and no dependents would get $810 a month. A veteran with a 100 percent rating and a spouse and child to support would get nearly $3,088 a month.” This illustrates the wide range of disability payments.

Maintaining Order or Encouraging Predators?

Perhaps one of the hardest questions for victims rights groups is whether or not current policies are maintaining order or encouraging predators.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice, the law that governs the military, is very different from the civilian justice system. It allows individual military commanders enormous power to determine who is punished for perpetrating sexual trauma and what the punishment will be.

Even if the attacker is formally charged, the commander, called the “convening authority,” can overturn any decision that a court-martial makes with no explanation as to why and it’s all in the name of maintaining military order.

But, there are many who believe that these policies, which are meant to preserve good order, are actually encouraging predators simply because they know there is little chance they will be prosecuted. Often victims, both male and female, are told to “suck it up” and not report the trauma. Even if they do report the assaults, victims are often treated as if they are the ones guilty of a crime.

Solutions

One thing is clear, the Department of Defense desperately needs a solution — or several solutions — to this ongoing problem. Many victims and advocates believe the DoD will make some minor and ineffective policy changes and there will be little to no follow through.

There are currently multiple bills working their way through Congress that would possibly have some impact, but whether or not they will pass remains to be seen.

 
 
Why A Black Rose?
People ask me why A Black Rose? Why Military Sexual Trauma? First a black rose, to me symbolize the mourning that my heart is feeling for the lack of care that this country, shows towards all veterans and military suffering from MST. I mourn every time I talk to people about MST and they look at you like you are lying. I mourn every day that pass and our military members are not protected from rapists. Why I decided to take this fight, because as a victim of rape while serving on the Gulf War, I want it to do whatever was possible to prevent this crime from happening to another military member. Also I want it to raise awareness, to create a place to speak out and to create change.
Our Mission:
To Raise Awareness
Our main goal is to show the nation that we will no longer stand for men and women in our armed forces being abused and sexually assaulted.
To Create a Place to Speak Out
Nothing is more painful than holding the trauma of abuse inside. A Black Rose aims to create a safe and-if need be-anonymous way to speak out on the topic of abuse in the military. This issue is real, and your support proves that.
To Create Change
Our military brothers and sisters serving this country still face startling statistical atrocities. Together, we must work towards the prevention of abuse and harassment. We believe that all members of the armed forces deserve to serve without fear of being abused by their fellow soldiers.
Why?
These veterans and military members serve and protect our country. They sacrifice their lives and their hearts for the freedoms we enjoy every day. In return, we have kept quiet about the atrocities of rape and sexual abuse soldiers face each and every day. This cannot continue.
Together, we can shed light on a dark and horrifying truth that has been left alone for far too long. Here, at you will find information and resources http://www.ablackrose.org/ regarding abuse in the military as well as our Black Rose Campaign for awareness.
You don't have to be a victim of abuse to show your support! You just have to care about our soldiers in uniform and their safety.
Please join us at our FB page and show your support htts://www.facebook.com/blackrosecampaign