By EOM Staff
With all the discussion about the “war on women”, it’s very disheartening to realize that our military is waging its own war on women. Following are the stories about Stephanie Schroeder, Anna Moore, Panayiota Bertzikis and Jenny McClendon. Four American women who chose to serve their country and how they were treated after reporting sexual assaults against them.
Stephanie Schroeder was 21 when she joined the Marine Corp shortly after 9/11. In April, 2002, a fellow marine followed her into a bathroom. He then attacked and raped her. She did the right thing….she reported it.
Anna Moore joined the Army after 9/11 and was planning to make a career of military service. She became a patriot missile battery operator inGermany. She was alone in her barracks when a non-commissioned officer tried to rape her. She did the right thing…she reported it.
Jenny McClendon served as a sonar operator on a Navy destroyer. She was working the midnight to 2:00 a.m. watch when a superior raped her. She did the right thing….she reported it.
Panayiota Bertzikis was serving in the Coast Guard in 2006, when she was punched in the face and raped by a shipmate during an off-duty hike. She did the right thing….she reported it.
This is what happened to these brave women who reported sexual assaults:
Stephanie Schroeder was told “don’t come bitching to me because you had sex and changed your mind.”
Anna Moore was told “forget about it. It never happened.” The reporting forms she filled out were torn up.
Panayiota Bertzikis was ordered to clean out an attic with her attacker and “work out your differences.”
And Jenny McClendon? Well, she was diagnosed with “personality disorder” and discharged from service. So was Stephanie Schroeder. So was Anna Moore. So was Panayiota Bertzikis. Four American women who wanted nothing more than to serve their country, were thrown away and treated dishonorably after reporting a sexual assault.
These women were all strong enough physically, emotionally and mentally to make it through basic training. They all reportedly performed their jobs well. They were punished (as women often are) for being victims of sexual assaults.
There were 3,191 military sexual assaults reported in 2011. But, just like in the civilian world, most attacks go unreported. The Pentagon estimates that there were actually over 19,000 attacks against women in the military last year.
A victim of rape is often diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Now imagine being strong enough to report the attack, then being punished in the form of a psychiatric diagnosis and being discharged from service. The feeling of betrayal by your comrades, your commanding officers and your country must be overwhelming.
Anna Moore said “it felt like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t trust my chain of command to ever back me up.”
Jenny McClendon said “I remember thinking this is absurd, this is ridiculous. How could I be emotionally unstable? I’m very clear of mind, especially considering what happened. It was a ludicrous diagnosis. I was good enough to suit up and show up and serve, but I wasn’t good enough after the fact”.
Panatioya Bertzikis said “I am the victim of this crime, then I report it and I felt like I was the one on trial – I was the one who did something wrong. He got a free pass and I was the one fighting to stay in.”
For civilians who are raped, there are options. Identifying and pressing charges against your attacker. Going to court. Going to the media. If you are raped in the military and your command doesn’t deal with it, there is nothing else for you to do.
Dr. Liza H Gold is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She explains that it’s a rule of thumb among psychiatrists not to diagnose someone with a personality disorder in the middle of a traumatic experience like a divorce, litigation or the aftermath of a sexual assault. The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a personality disorder as a long-standing, inflexible pattern of maladaptive behavior and coping, beginning in early adolescence or early adulthood. People with personality disorders tend to get fired from jobs, get in trouble with the law or at school and are unable to maintain relationships, none of which were true with these women.
Anu Bhagwati is a former company commander in the Marines and now serves as Executive Director of Service Women’s Action Network, a veterans advocacy group. She says she sees a pattern of the military using psychiatric diagnoses to get rid of women who report sexual assaults. She says it makes no sense medically for people to be diagnosed all of a sudden after being sexually assaulted as an adult in the military to say, for a psychiatrist to say “no, you’ve had this all along”. She said that “these women have clearly been able to function. They made it through basic training, through all the follow-up training, are deployed overseas in war and they’ve done fine there. But after reporting sexual assaults, it seems very suspicious that the military would suddenly stamp them with a pre-existing condition that bars them from serving any longer”.
CNN recently interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces who tell similar stories. After reporting sexual assaults, their commanders were dismissive of the allegations, and they were shortly thereafter diagnosed with a personality disorder and discharged from service.
Both in the military and in civilian life, rapes are seldom reported because of the way rape victims are treated. They are greeted with suspicion, people accuse them of lying or even say “they were asking for it”. We can’t help victims of rape until we take away the stigma attached to it. It is not shameful to be the victim of rape. The shame belongs on the rapist. When will the woman stopped being blamed for the man’s crime?
Many people object to women serving in the military, using the argument that if they are captured they may be raped. It seems like our female service members have more to fear from the man serving next to them than they do from our enemies.
Yes, there is a war on women. Even against the women who risk their lives to serve and protect.