They berate themselves for not seeing the signs

Dear President Trump,

Ironically, I’m not working today because it’s Veterans’ Day (observed). I’ve been thinking, though, of how the opportunities and motives for men to abuse and sexually harass women I’ve laid out recently overlap with what my women patients at the VA have told me over the years.

Those who enlisted in the 1970’s recall ubiquitous sexualized behavior toward the handful of women in any given command, including seeing secretaries being made to sit on boss’s laps and being told women were only allowed in the service for the esprit de corps of the men. They talk about how they were typically the first woman in their MOS and how, if they were lucky, one of the men tried to shield them from the others’ harsh, lewd denigration. They talk haltingly of being betrayed by their mentors, berating themselves for not seeing the signs leading up to being raped by someone they trusted and admired. They tearfully reveal learning they were impregnated by the rapist and how they had no idea what to do since abortion was illegal and they were not married. They talk of hating that the child they carried, and did their best to raise, was the product of violation and violence. They relay, often visibly shaking with anger, how when they reported the rape (or more often, rapes) they were medically discharged with a personality disorder, demoted, or transferred while the perpetrator was promoted. They also relay, also visibly shaking with anger, how they saw no percentage in telling anyone and had to stuff what happened behind alcohol, perfectionism, dissociation. They speak of having wanted to serve their country well and how proud they are of their service even as they try to make sense of how it happened that such noble impulses ended up leading to so much pain. They talk of the struggle to get the VA to believe them that they were raped when there is no official record of it and the profound sense of revictimization this engenders. They talk of how they sometimes doubt themselves, how if the VA doesn’t believe anything bad happened then maybe nothing bad did happen, that maybe they are just being hysterical.

When they can bring themselves to talk about it, they try to make sense of how it can all still be happening. Today.

May we all be safe from those on our team.
May we all be happy to look out for each other.
May we all be healthy enough to see each one’s intrinsic worth.
May we commit to a world where women soldiers are safe from men soldiers.

Tracy Simpson

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