Normally, I prefer to be more lighthearted in my writing, but sometimes, I see things, and I can’t just let them go. Call it a… personal quirk.
Here is an article from February’s issue of Rolling Stone that not only got my attention, it made me physically upset. At the same time I was outraged, I was not surprised. It’s a long article that goes into considerable detail, but here’s the very short version of what happened:
An enlisted woman named Rebecca Blumer was drugged and raped by one (or more?) fellow servicemen, and as a result of reporting her attack, she was ostracized by her peers, and eventually separated involuntarily from the military. It was deemed “too much of a risk to ruin the reputation and career of the men” to ensure that she got proper justice for what she endured. All of this was of course exacerbated by the fact that she could not remember what happened, as is always the case when you are dosed with rohypnol.
I don’t want to focus on my anger here, and I don’t want to focus on the personal connection this case has to me. Rather, I want to focus on the bravery of Ms. Blumer and while she completely sacrificed her reputation and career, she is exactly the kind of person we need more of in this world if we ever intend on ending the culture of rape in this country. After all, if it’s happening in the military, where soldiers are held to such standards that even adultery can result in a dishonorable discharge, it can (and does) happen anywhere.
From the Rolling Stone article, it seems as though Rebecca expected support when she came forward (as she should have). It seems like the horrible treatment she received was a total surprise. That said, many women don’t come forward in cases of rape simply because they are embarrassed and ashamed that it happened in the first place. She was brave enough to say “look, this is what happened to me, and I deserve some help.” That by itself deserves admiration. After all, studies have shown that most people who rape are repeat offenders. Coming forward in the first place can help prevent future crimes, and yet there is virtually no incentive for victims to do so. Many experience terrible backlash.
She didn’t stop there. She encountered immediate resistance from the military in the form of being disciplined for driving under the influence. She had, after all, been discovered driving with her headlights off, presumably still under the influence of the drugs–in a waking coma, basically. Instead of taking the path of least resistance, which is what most of us do in difficult situations, she fought it tooth and nail. She saw injustice happening right before her eyes, and she stood up to it. Standing up to the military is no easy feat, and as she witnessed, the military usually wins.
Here’s the thing that bothered me the most about her story: her friends, peers, and colleagues failed to support her. I have been there, and it’s terrible. It’s bad enough not getting support from your superiors–but–as we all know, sometimes our bosses don’t agree with us, even when we are so right, the topic should not even be up for discussion. To have your friends turn against you, however, is heartbreaking. Soul-crushing, even. For Rebecca to so strongly move forward in the face of opposition from all sides must have taken a kind of strength and conviction I can’t imagine having.
In today’s world, where we have internet and real-time discussions with total strangers, she has risked so much by sharing her story with Rolling Stone. Lots of people have read and will read that article. She used her real name. She is opening herself up to all the insane people who truly believe the entire incident was her fault. She is allowing people to re-traumatize her over and over. While she fortunately has received an outpouring of support, I’m sure there are plenty of others out there who have hurled hate at her. Unfortunately, people do that sometimes. For being willing to put herself and her story out there, I truly commend her. Again, without these kinds of stories and examples, people can turn a blind eye to this thing that is happening to real people with real lives. Statistics are becoming less and less meaningful because we heave heard them too many times. Personal accounts can hopefully reach more people and inspire some change in attitudes.
My story happened 13 years ago, and I’m ashamed to say that I’m still scared to tell it. Hell, I’m scared to really tell anything–after all, I’m here blogging anonymously to protect myself and everyone I know from any unsolicited scrutiny. At the same time, whenever I read a story like Rebecca’s, I get just a little bit closer to wanting to talk. I have no interest in pursuing my attacker anymore–I believe that ship sailed a long time ago. I could be doing more to change the culture, however, and that is how the big problem is going to get solved.
To Rebecca: I’m so sorry for everything you went through. No one deserves to endure that kind of repeated trauma. I was glad to read that things are looking better for you and that your life has at least reached something that more closely resembles happiness. I commend you for speaking out. I hope that people will read your story and be inspired to take action, be it in their own lives or for the greater good.