In honor of the national women’s month of March, I wanted to write about something that has been weighing very heavily on my heart over the past two years. While working in all of my internships, my eyes have been opened to many incidents of rape, violence, and sexual assault brought upon women.
I recently read about a hidden tragedy that has been taking place all around us for years—the rampant amount of sexual assaults on women in the military. To be honest, this is something I hadn’t heard of or given much thought to until these past few months. Lately, it seems that handfuls of brave women have had enough, and they are telling their stories.
This month an article was published in “The Rolling Stone” magazine, which told the story of a Navy intelligence analyst, Rebecca Blumer. Her story is one that should be shouted out to the rooftops—one of love for her country, service, rape, and humiliation. Her story shows us all how the military appears to be turning their backs not only the perpetrator, but on the victim. It seems that the leaders of our military are not bothered by the statistics, which show that in 2010, 19,000 service members were sexually assaulted, and that is twice as likely for a member of the military to be raped than a civilian. Before Blumer’s rape, she had enlisted for another six years in the Navy, but in the end, she was discharged and thrown out on the street. She was homeless for a time, until finding a stable job at a furniture store.
It’s 3:30pm on a sunny afternoon when 24-year-old, Jessica Brightbill, was ambushed by two men on the street and dragged towards the trunk of a car before someone showed up and scared the two men away. Another story from NYC, Oakland, or Chicago? How about a small town in North Dakota.
When I read this story in the NY Times I was shocked. The article told us the story of Williston, North Dakota—a place that is populated with more men than women by close to 2:1. The oil boom has brought loads of men, and with that, prostitution, strip clubs, and sexual assault. In this small town, the women are scared to walk the streets alone and often are too afraid to be anywhere without protection.
Margaux is young, in college, and on her way home to her dorm room after having too much to drink at a weekend party. An acquaintance of hers sees that she is having trouble getting in the building, and comes over to help. He walks Margaux to her room and rapes her. The campus refuses to do anything about it because he says it was consensual, and she admits she had been drinking.
College women have a one in five chance of being sexually assaulted, and 80% of these rape victims stay silent. For all of these stories above, there seems to be some kind of underlining assumption that men who rape are often drunk and think the act is consensual. When will it be time to admit that these sexual predators are actually intending to inflict this act no matter the circumstance? When we recognize that this is a mental health issue, and that these women are actually being preyed upon, maybe then we can begin to stop rape and sexual assault among women, or at the least, remind these victims that it wasn’t their fault.
Writer’s Note: I was inspired to write this piece after discovering that the two Santa Cruz police officers who were shot to death this past week, were shot by a man accused of sexual assault. This wasn’t his first time though, as he had been accused twice of raping women while in the military. If only his case hadn’t been slipped under the rug…