Speaking up about sexual assault in the military [Letter]

  • Analyzing Defense Department data, The Sun found that when male service members report a sexual assault, military authorities are less likely to identify a suspect, to refer charges to court-martial or to discharge the alleged perpetrator than in cases in which the victim is a woman.  Male victims and other critics blamed those differences on a military culture they say has been slow to recognize the possibility that men can be raped — and that remains hostile to victims.  Because male service members greatly outnumber females, officials believe the majority of sexual assault victims in the military are men. These men -- an estimated 13,900 last year alone -- are far less likely than women to report an attack. Only 13 percent of reports last year were filed by men, military data show.
Analyzing Defense Department data, The Sun found that when… (Algerina Perna, Baltimore…)
December 25, 2013

We praise our military heroes for their courage in battle, as we should. But there are other heroes from the military who deserve our acclaim as well — the sexually abused men and women who have come forward in the public eye ("Military sexual assault victims break the silence," Dec. 15).

By showing their faces and giving their names, they demonstrate monumental courage to push past their shame and stand up for a basic human right — to live safely in one's body. They are protesting against a military system that averts its eyes and, by not holding the perpetrators accountable, collaborates with sexual predators.

Because of what was done to them and how they were treated when they disclosed the assaults, they have their own personal battles to fight. PTSD from sexual assault is a harrowing nightmare that haunts people during the daylight too.

Terror and rage live side-by-side in a brain that functions differently after the assault. Too often, the rage is directed inward and the terror is bone deep.

The body reacts by going into a hyper-aroused state, or "idling high." That is why so many people resort to drugs and alcohol to soothe a body and mind that have lost the ability to be at peace.

Many close down their hearts because numbness seems better than pain. Too many sexual assault survivors are mired in shame that rightfully belongs to their abusers and bystanders.

People can heal from PTSD given support, acknowledgment and the difficult work of therapy. The military has a moral responsibility to provide what victims and survivors need to heal.

So I say hats off to those heroes who have stepped forward to break the silence. They are warriors of the highest caliber.

Emily Samuelson, Towson

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