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Archive | 2010

Military sexual abuse ‘staggering’

In part two of our series, Al Jazeera examines the often hidden world of rape and abuse in the US military.


“]Sexual abuse happens in the US military at rates twice the national average, according to reports [GALLO/GETTY]

Sexual abuse happens in the US military at rates twice the national average, according to reports [GALLO/GETTY


In fact, due to raw demographics, one can roughly surmise that most victims of sexual abuse in the military are male.

Regardless of gender, reports of victims of military sexual assault have been increasing. In 2007, there were 2,200 reports of rape in the military, whilst in 2009 saw an increase up to 3,230 reports of sexual assault.

Many of the victims suffer from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and are shamed into silence, with numerous cases not even reported.

A disturbing trend, however, is how military officials seem to be sweeping this damaging issue under the rug and deflecting blame.

Blaming the Victim

Kira Mountjoy-Pepka of Pack Parachute, a non-profit organisation which assists sexually abused veterans, explains that the military system favours the perpetrator. “What we’re seeing now, and what we’ve seen for decades, is when someone is assaulted, the military investigators create false or misleading crime reports. Then the case is dismissed, and the command persecutes the victim for false reporting.”

Read the rest of this story at Al-Jazeera English.

Also see Part One here.

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Rape rampant in US military

Statistics and soldiers’ testimonies reveal a harrowing epidemic of sexual assault in the US military.

Earlier this year a house subcommittee held a hearing focused on sexual assault and violence against women in the military and at the academies (Getty)

Earlier this year a house subcommittee held a hearing focused on sexual assault and violence against women in the military and at the academies (Getty)

Sexual assault within the ranks of the military is not a new problem. It is a systemic problem that has necessitated that the military conduct its own annual reporting on the crisis.

A 2003 Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal prompted the department of defense to include a provision in the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act that required investigations and reports of sexual harassment and assaults within US military academies to be filed. The personal toll is, nevertheless, devastating.

Military sexual trauma (MST) survivor Susan Avila-Smith is director of the veteran’s advocacy group Women Organizing Women. She has been serving female and scores of male clients in various stages of recovery from MST for 15 years and knows of its devastating effects up close.

“People cannot conceive how badly wounded these people are,” she told Al Jazeera, “Of the 3,000 I’ve worked with, only one is employed. Combat trauma is bad enough, but with MST it’s not the enemy, it’s our guys who are doing it. You’re fighting your friends, your peers, people you’ve been told have your back. That betrayal, then the betrayal from the command is, they say, worse than the sexual assault itself.”

Al-Jazeera English's companion TV coverage of this report.

Al-Jazeera English's companion TV coverage of this report.

On December 13, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups filed a federal lawsuit seeking Pentagon records in order to get the real facts about the incidence of sexual assault in the ranks.

The Pentagon has consistently refused to release records that fully document the problem and how it is handled. Sexual assaults on women in the US military have claimed some degree of visibility, but about male victims there is absolute silence.

Pack Parachute, a non-profit in Seattle, assists veterans who are sexual assault survivors. Its founder Kira Mountjoy-Pepka, was raped as a cadet at the Air Force Academy. In July 2003 she was member of a team of female cadets handpicked by Donald Rumsfeld, at the time the secretary of defense, to tell their stories of having been sexually assaulted. The ensuing media coverage and a Pentagon investigation forced the academy to make the aforementioned major policy changes.

Read the rest of this article on Al-Jazeera English.

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Environmental Protection Agency?

Residents of the US Gulf Coast say their pleas for help and transparency continue to be ignored by regulators.

Some Mississippi residents believe that unnatural foamy substances washing up on beeches are a byproduct of BP's toxic dispersants used as part of the clean-up effort around the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

Michelle Nix, from Pensacola, Florida, founded the group Gulf Coast Oil Spill Volunteers in an effort to be pro-active and do what she could to help when the BP oil disaster began on April 20.

“I had 500 volunteers coordinated to help with cleanup, people offering free oil boom, people donating their work and time to help,” Nix told Al Jazeera.

She contacted the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Coast Guard, Wildlife and Fisheries, “and everyone I could think of to try to help,” Nix said. “But none of them responded. None of the government agencies would get back in touch with me.”

Nix, not to be deterred, helped organise blood tests for several Gulf coasts residents who were experiencing sicknesses attributed to toxic chemicals released from BP’s well blow-out and the dispersants the company has used to sink the oil.

In October, Dr. Wilma Subra, a chemist and Macarthur Fellow, conducted the blood tests for volatile solvents - chemicals present in BP’s crude oil as well as their toxic dispersants – on eight people Nix provided who live and work along the coast.

Read the rest of this story at Al-Jazeera English.

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