In case you haven’t checked your Facebook newsfeed today, it’s Veteran’s Day.
A day set aside in pure remembrance and recognition of the men and women who sacrifice more than I can ever imagine to fight for our country’s freedom. It is no small feat. It’s no small day. And I, indeed, tip my hat off to soldiers past and present. But I’m not going to write a full blog post sharing my admiration, gratitude, or support for our troops. I do want to preface with the fact that I do in fact support our country’s military.
And because of that, I think it’s crucial to continue the conversation about how to improve the rapport within the military, the safety of our soldier’s, and the transition back into “mainstream” life on our own soil. Because despite the outpouring of support for soldiers today — we can’t give ourselves a pass for the 364 other days in the year.
A report was just released unveiling shocking numbers that reported sexual assaults in the military increased by 50% from last year. 50 percent. These are stats being spewed by a women’s group, by a rape crisis center, by “radical feminists” as they’ve been called. These numbers come straight from the horses mouth: the Department of Defense.
The numbers are high — really high. Over the past few years, the military has been a target in the media as reports of sexual assault were brought to light. The documentary, Invisible War, brought a lot of much needed attention to the issue. It called out the military and specifically leaders within the U.S. military who had essentially turned a check, high-fived the perpetrators with a promotion, and went about their way moving up the chain of command. It is this blunt discussion that perhaps has led to more victims coming forward. Although Major General Gary Patton predicts this means more healthcare and treatment for victims, I am skeptical. The stories you read about or see on Kirby DIck’s compelling and devastating documentary tell a different story. Even when victims do come forward, the services, respect, and justice are not reciprocated.
I want to have faith that the pressure on DoD and the U.S. military to do better will protect victims, prosecute perpetrators, and ultimately eliminate sexual violence among the heroes we honor today. . . but I struggle. I think we need harsher laws, stricter punishments, more committed leaders who are willing to protect the men and women they lead instead of hiding behind their badges of honor. We aren’t free if the soldiers who fight for our country can’t freely do so without the fear of being assaulted while on active duty.
So even though we stand behind our troops, we honor them, we respect them. We can’t ignore the violence some of them inflict just because they’re “our heroes.” Just like we cannot and should not ignore rape when a football player is the assailant, a local respected community member, or a pastor. The role we play professionally does not get to negate the actions we take.