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Women in Military Have More than One War to Fight

 

What’s worse?  Fearing you are going to be attacked by the Taliban or your own fellow serviceman? 
 
That’s the sickening reality females serving in our US military are facing every day.  Yesterday, NBC’s Natalie Morales on Rock Center with Brian Williams interviewed women who had been sexually assaulted by fellow members of the armed forces. The four servicewomen interviewed reported they feel betrayed and personally retaliated against because of reporting their assaults and rapes.  The interview brings to light a long-standing problem in our US armed forces. 

Last year, 3,192 service members across all branches of the military reported sexual assaults. Based on anonymous surveys conducted in 2010, the Department of Defense says a more accurate number of incidents involving sexual assault is actually closer to 19,000.
 
After watching the broadcast, I applaud these women for having the courage to stand up to military brass and talk about this epidemic of sexual assault within the ranks of our armed forces.  See broadcast here.        

Barbara Dooley…A True Survivor

     Barbara Dooley is one inspiring woman!  I admire her greatly because she is witty, entertaining and is a true southern woman…full of grace and grit.  A guest on her radio show recently, I was immediately captivated by her powerful, clear voice. 
“Wow,” I thought.  “This is going to be a high energy 10-minute segment.”
      And it was.
     Barbara, being a cancer survivor, knows a lot about overcoming the odds.  I liked the directness in her interview style.  I liked her pragmatic approach.  You know, it’s hard to ask a sexual assault survivor personal questions, but Barbara just plowed in and asked the tough ones without hesitation because she has been there and overcome as well!  Listen to the interview here. 

Courage to Move Onward

 

On a Tuesday afternoon in February 2008, Starbucks closed all its doors to train its baristas in 7,100 stores to pour that perfect shot of espresso.  It was a huge risk.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz knew the company would lose millions in the three hours he would close all the coffee shops, but he bit the bullet.  The media had a hey-day, interviewing baffled customers standing at storefronts.  Critics would charge the Starbucks brand was broken.   But Schultz was confident he had done the right thing….to invest in his employees.
     In Shultz’s book, “Onward,” he wrote, “There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust.  But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all risks and rational argument, we believethat the part we are choosing is the right and best thing to do.  We refuse to be bystanders, even if we do not know exactly where our actions will lead.”
     As a sexual assault survivor, I know it takes courage to step forward when self-defeating beliefs, fears and crippling habits keep us from living a full and abundant life.  On September 15th, you have an opportunity to be courageous….to take a few hours and invest in your own life, recovery and healing at the 2nd Annual Sexual Assault Survivors Conference at Georgia Southern University.  
     Starbucks fought for its life without losing its soul.  We should too.

Sexual Assault Rampant No Matter What Gender

 

The 267-page Freeh report released July 12 examines the heinous actions of Jerry Sandusky from May 1998 until his arrest in November 2011. I am left feeling sick to my stomach knowing a conspiracy of silence was given life by Penn State University President Graham Spanier, Football Coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz.
For 14 years, these supposedly purist, powerful men at Penn State University chose to remain quiet.  To look the other way.  To conceal the hard facts.  To shield the reputation of the school’s venerable football program all in the name of pigskin.
And they did it well.
Why my soapbox?  I too am a sexual assault survivor.  My nightmare occurred in an Atlanta hotel while on a business trip at age 27.  It took me two decades to even begin the healing process.  What happened to me and Sandusky’s victims are different only in setting.  The impairment of these deep, harsh wounds is the same.  I can assure you it will take a lifetime of healing for these young men, as it has me.
I am speaking for the young men who survived these attacks at the hands of Sandusky and countless other victims of rape and assault who will never come forward and whose voice will never be heard.  Many will live in shame and will blame themselves for something that should have never happened to them.
Many will never recover because sexual assault is so underreported and is silenced culturally.  Our society has this twisted.  Rape is the crime.  Talking about it isn’t.
The findings support my point of view fully as it sadly confirms staff members, from the ranks of janitors to coaches, witnessed Sandusky showering with young boys, fondling and pinning them against the wall, and performing sexual acts on them in the Penn State athletic facilities shower.  Yet they chose to protect Sandusky, a serial pedophile, in order to keep their jobs  and at all costs protect the university’s reputation, fearing it might “open Pandora’s Box” onto Penn State’s almighty football program.
This report revealed “a culture of reverence for this university’s football program that was ingrained at all levels of the campus community.”  It was, as the report stated, like a quasi-religious cult.  At many competitive football schools, we find fanatic-like rage reeking of this same cult-like behavior as the end zone scoreboard offers the glitter of VICTORY!
Collegiate pigskin is one of the most powerful forces in this country.  Elite followers think nothing of making $10,000 donations for club seats on the 50-yard line.    Such impressive investments have led Penn State’s football to be among the five most profitable programs, generating $50 million in the 2009/10 season. Sterling and ethical leadership, beginning with the University President’s office, must assure, midst such sporting drama and excitement, no one is “off sides.” To do so takes shepherding with honor, individuals who do not get caught up in the power of their governance.  For with one clever sheep going astray and not gathered in, the disorder begins its destructive, rapid growth such as the Sandusky case.
In the final score, Joe Paterno was not a football hero, but a coward.     He wanted glory, fame for his beloved Penn State, at all costs.
And the cost is the death of Penn State’s reputation.

Can Sandusky Conviction bring Freedom to Victims?

The jury has spoken.  The verdict is in.  Jerry Sandusky has been charged with 45 child sexual abuse charges and will be sentenced in a few weeks.  While following the trial, I thought often of Victims 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, and the courage it took to get on the witness stand.

We often think of sexual assault in terms of females being targeted, but the fact is 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by age 18, according to David Finkelhor in “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors.” 1990.
It’s up to us as parents to be aware of the facts:
  • More than 90% of all sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator. Almost 50% of the offenders are household members and 38% are already acquaintances of the victims.
  • The average serial child molester has between 360-380 victims in his lifetime.
  • Only 12% of all cases of child abuse are reported.
  • The most common ages of children when sexual abuse occurs are between 8 and 12 
The information below reveals the secret strategies of child molesters. 

The Roller Coaster Ride of PTSD

I have a new term for you. Veloxroltaphobia. It’s the fear of roller coasters. The symptoms: dry mouth, racing heartbeat, stomach doing more loops than the ride itself.  Apparently, Legoland has teamed up with psychologist Susan Bartell to provide parents with “Roller Coaster Readiness Tips” for nervous, reluctant tikes who are scared of this particular amusement park ride.

When I saw this in an article in USA Today last week, it made me think about the enormous number of women who have survived sexual assault and rape and “white knuckle” it through life.

I was on a never-ending roller coaster for 20 years.  It went something like this….
1. See man who looks like attacker.
2. Hold breath.
3. Hyperventilate.
4. Have heart palpitations.
5. Experience panic attack.
6. Realize it wasn’t assailant.
7. Recover.

I lived with PTSD and was on edge for so long it became part of my framework, intertwined with my DNA and destiny.  Months became years, years became decades.   I really thought I could overcome it with the passage of time.  The fact is I could not.  The other important truth:  the sooner PTSD is confronted, the EASIER it is to overcome it…..I surely wish now someone would have clued me in on that tidbit!

Two years ago, I finally had enough of the daring drops and corkscrew turns and sought counseling from Ellen Emerson, a licensed psychologist in Statesboro.  She used cognitive therapy to rewire my brain and allow me the freedom to LIVE AGAIN, uninhibited by fear.

Until we can be victorious over post traumatic stress and free ourselves of the helpless and hopeless feelings that come from constant flashbacks, continual startling, and hyper vigilance, we are going to be on what feels like a perpetual Six Flags Scream Machine forever.

If you have no belief you will ever be able to get off the roller coaster and live again, that is not true!  I got off.  You can too.