Veterans share experiences after showing of “The Invisible War”
Aaron Berkowitz – General Assignment Reporter
The 50 percent increase in sexual abuse cases reported over the last few years is a result of a boost in confidence that soldiers will receive justice, said Jack Mordente, director of the veteran’s services office.
Students and staff gathered to watch and listen to a panel of veterans share their traumatic experiences with sexual abuse in the military.
Emotions ran high during the Office of Diversity and Equity’s showing of the film, “The Invisible War” and panel discussion that followed right after.
Mordente said the overall purpose of the program was to raise awareness on an issue that has been going on for years.
Kia Smith, senior at SCSU who came out to the program, said the film’s revealing of disturbing facts infuriated her.
“I find it repulsive,” said Smith, “that we have not evolved enough as people to question our justice system more and monitor what things the government has put in place to see if they are going well or not.”
According to an anonymous survey that was conducted by the U.S Department of Defense back in 2012, of the 26,000 service members who were abused in the year approximately 14,000 of them were men.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of it and in the civilian world you never hear about it,” said Mordente. “The number of men in the military is larger than the amount of women and there are more men who are sexually abused. And because of the stigma for men, they don’t report it.”
Drew Myers and Tiara Boehm are both SCSU students and veterans who volunteered to share their experiences with sexual abuse while serving for the first time.
Myers said the incident itself wasn’t the hardest part for him to deal with.
“The hardest part was just pretending like nothing ever happened,” said Myers.
He said he carried the burden of this incident on his own up until eight months ago. Myers discussed how the traumatic experience led him to leaving the army with an alcohol problem, which later resulted in a battle with drugs.
“It’s hard to trust anybody because of it,” said Myers.
Boehm said at one point she trusted these same people that took advantage of her with her life. She has battled with nightmares/flashbacks that wake up her daughter and was told she was lying by staff in the military, but has since made progress in her recovery. Her sergeant noticed her behavior and a new commander then reported the incident to the Criminal Investigation in Command.
Only one of the perpetrators has been prosecuted, but goes to show that there are existing resources and developing ones that strive to help people who have been made victims of the abuse.
Mordente said programs such as this one very important in the effort of raising awareness because not only are there existing misconceptions about abuse, but also the victims can feel very alone when they are not.
“This issue has been going on for years and just began to draw the attention the last three years,” said Mordente. “The program was specifically for military folks suffering from sexual trauma, but it’s a very real issue that can affect everybody.”
Cathy Christy, Director of the Women’s Center, said the Sexual Assault Resource Team (S.A.R.T) and counseling services are on campus for anyone who is seeking help dealing with any sexual misconduct.
Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas