Saturday, March 30, 2013

Raped By Her Dream

The Rape

Edgar Degas (1869)

In the Oscar nominated documentary, The Invisible War, by Filmmaker Kirby Dick, Kori Cioca (U.S. Coast Guard), Jessica Hinves (U.S. Air Force), Robin Lynne LaFayette (U.S. Air Force), Lt. Ariana Klay (U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Barracks Washington), Trina McDonald, (U.S. Navy) Lt. Elle Helmer (U.S. Marines Corp, Marine Barracks Washington), Hannah Sewell (U.S. Navy) talk about their dream to join the United States military for many different reasons: wanting to be the best they could be, wanting to be a part of something bigger, wanting to see the world, or wanting to continue a long family tradition of military, which for one woman, Lt. Elle Helmer, went all the way back to the Revolutionary War. All of the women expressed noble reasons for serving their country.
Kori Cioca said she would have repeated basic training over and over because she just loved it. Each woman echoed how much the experience of training meant to them: comaradie is mentioned, challenge, discipline, professionalism, doing the job well, kudos from officers, awards, leaderships positions, achieving great physical and mental prowess, keeping up with the guys and working just as hard as they did, all these accomplishments were exciting to the female recruits who looked forward to their service with eagerness.
And then – reality. 
Stationed in Alaska with ten men, Trina McDonald was the only woman. Trina was raped repeatedly. She said she felt “like a piece of meat on a slab.” Kori Cioca was raped by her so-called “superior.” Her jaw was so damaged in the attack that now she cannot open her mouth to chew. She must eat only soft foods. She cannot go outside in winter without her jaw seizing up in the cold. The other women have similar stories. Hannah Sewell was a virgin before her attack. Her back was injured during the rape and now she has trouble walking. Walking. Lee Le Teff (U.S. Army) had a loaded gun put to her head. One woman (U.S. Army Medical Corps) contracted two STD’s and became pregnant from her rape. Two were accused of adultery, though neither woman was married – their rapists were. (This struck me as very Victorian, reminding me of another film, The Crimson Petal and The White, in which a governess is given her marching papers for getting pregnant with her employer’s child.) In The Invisible War, only one man spoke of being raped, but more men are raped in the military than women.
According to the film, the estimated number of women who have been sexually assaulted in the military is 500,000.
Soldiers might expect to be raped by the enemy if captured during combat, but they do NOT expect to be raped by their fellow soldiers, by their friends, by their commanders - or by their dream.
Harsh reality –
The estimated number is 500,000 - 80% do not report because of the extreme retaliation that comes with reporting.
Rapists are being protected, not victims. A Steubenville Rape Culture prevails. Across every branch of the military, victims are told to be quiet by military officials whom they approach to help them prosecute the crimes against them. Commanders are reluctant to report a rape in their section because they will be seen as unable to command, and they will be reprimanded and fail to advance in their careers. Some of the rapists mentioned in the film were decorated and promoted – let’s be clear, not for rape, but for other wonderful, macho achievements, I’m sure. Rape victims who wanted to report, meanwhile, were told that if they wished to file a report, they could lose their rank.  According to the film, “In units where sexual harassment is tolerated, incidents of rape TRIPLE.”
In the film, Atty. Susan Burke said. “What we hear again and again from soldiers who have been raped is that as bad as it was being raped, what was as bad, if not worse, was to receive professional retaliation in their chosen career, merely because they were raped.”
In other words, raped by their dream.
Brigadier General Loree Sutton went on to say, “Losing even one soldier needlessly because of military sexual trauma is one too many.” All of the women in the film said they would never allow their daughters to join the military, and if that is the goal of the military to get rid of women then why are the rapists also raping men?
Who do you want in your military? Rapists? Or good soldiers? Aren’t we losing good soldiers when men and women must leave the service because of injuries incurred during rape? What happened to nobility? True nobility. Nobility of heart, mind and body.
Apparently, rapists are also JOINING the armed forces. Again, according to The Invisible War, a recent Navy study found that 15% of incoming recruits attempted or committed rape before entering the military, twice the percentage of the equivalent civilian population. Psychiatrist Brigadier General Loree Sutton (Ret. U.S. Army) said in the film, “Particularly for a savvy perpetrator, to work within a relatively closed system like the military, it becomes a prime target-rich environment for a predator.” These rapists, when they leave the military, go on to commit rape in our communities, because rape is a crime that is repeated until the rapist is caught.
Who do you want in your military? Are criminal rapists good soldiers?
According to The Invisible War, in 2011, the court ruled rape to be an occupational hazard of military service. How about getting rapists OUT OF THE MILITARY?
Does the U.S. military considered rape victims to be weak? If rape victims are supposed to suck it up, then why don’t male soldiers just suck up their erections in the first place? If they have so little control, how can they call themselves soldiers? If all that aggression is supposed to be perpetrated on the enemy, then, why are they raping fellow soldiers? (Not that I agree with raping the enemy. I don’t. I think it’s beneath us. Again, nobility.) Hence, the title of the film, The Invisible War: we are at war with ourselves. Conduct unbecoming.
What does a soldier do if the military is his dream and he is raped by his dream?  What does a soldier do when the country he believes in rapes him? The men and women who told their stories in The Invisible War, now must pick up the pieces of their lives and re-invent themselves. Men and women who were devoted to serving their country in the armed services, now must find another way to serve their country and the American ideals they still have. Many have, but many are still so damaged physically and mentally that they are forced to relive the nightmare before they can heal and go forward with their lives.
Cut to civilian life -
In a 2004 New York Magazine story, Naomi Wolf describes having been sexually propositioned by her Yale thesis professor, Harold Bloom in 1983. Apparently, Bloom put his hand on her thigh and told her that she was lovely. After Naomi threw up (Have you seen Harold Bloom?), he changed his tune and told her, according to Wolf, that she was a “deeply troubled girl.” Naomi was advised to get her degree and wait to expose him. She did. If she hadn’t waited, perhaps she would have lost all that she had achieved in her field, and been raped by her dream as well. Naomi said she finally had to come forward because male entitlement at Yale still predominated the campus among professors, who considered approaching female students to be a “perk” and among the male students themselves, as in the “No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal” chant of a certain Yale fraternity. Of course, an advance is not a rape, but it is if your dream is held hostage.
            Oh, I know I’m being naïve. I know, for instance, that Marilyn Monroe was “passed around” and that “she understood this.” I know that the Catholic Church knew forever about the child rapes and took them as a matter of course. Of course. In the grand Roman tradition – Caligula’s uncle, who raised him, used to throw little slave boys over the cliff when he was done with them. I’m sure none of those slaves ever dreamt of being sex slaves, but what about all the altar boys who once believed in something? All the Catholic children – and their parents - who once believed their priest was the representative of God on earth?
            Recently, The Daily Beast reported a story on scandal at the Bolshoi Ballet. Ballerinas were being coerced into having sex with some of the wealthy and powerful men of Moscow and Paris. The Bolshoi story reminded me of Degas’ ballet dancers. When Degas painted the hall of the new Paris Opera House, he was painting a beautiful baroque hallway of chandeliers and sparkling gold scrollwork peopled by men in evening dress and female ballet dancers (nicknamed “petit rats”), a hall created for this sole purpose – for wealthy men to view the ballerinas and choose from them.

Edgar Degas (1878)

            I guess I’m naïve. I’m told that theaters will always depend on wealthy patrons and that the rich will always be able to buy almost anything they want. The petit rats in Degas’ time came from poor families who could not protect them. The ballerinas of the Bolshoi who are coerced are usually chosen from the lower ranks because they are the most vulnerable to losing their positions. Will being able to dance superbly the life-demanding discipline of ballet ever be enough? Ballerinas of the BOLSHOI raped by their dream? Am I really being naïve? I guess so. I’m told that rich “patrons” mean as much to the ballerinas, who cannot dance forever, as they do to the theater. In fact, securing a rich patron can ensure a ballerina’s success. I’m told the ballerinas brag about their expensive gifts. Sounds like Stockholm Sydrome. When will dancing superbly be enough?
            May 31, 2015 UPDATE: Something I, as a victim, have always wondered about, now answered by Director Amy Berg's film, "An Open Secret" - Hollywood's secret sexual abuse of child stars.
            Recently, I saw the film Young Abe Lincoln, which portrayed Lincoln's early years as a lawyer, and yes, it was fictionalized. Sure, it was melodramatic and sentimental. I wasn’t in the mood for a black and white oldie, but I found myself drawn in by the characters, the nobility of them. Maybe I’m naïve. I’ve always been drawn to Lincoln’s self-education, which I believe in and I have done. I’m drawn to the simplicity of his life. How he was really very shy and quiet, but was encouraged all the time by the needs of the community to get up and speak, to take a leadership role. I found myself laughing outrageously in some places, and sobbing in others. Particularly at the very end, when young Abe, reluctant once again to take the mic, walked up to the podium and morphed into the statue of himself in Washington. He’s still there.

What would you do in his presence? Would you rape your fellow soldier? I’m pretty sure Lincoln could have watched and appreciated a ballet without trying to get a little from the exquisite ballerinas. I'm sure he could have enjoyed a TV show without fantasizing about the child star. Maybe I’m just naïve.

©Patricia Goodwin 2013
Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, a novella about two women who died and became legends in an historic New England seacoast town. Sequel soon to be released.

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