Originally posted on September 23, 2013
CNN ran an article about Jack Williams, a Vietnam-era veteran who faces numerous physical and mental health issues as a result of rape.
According to the article, Williams’ assistant drill sergeant raped then 18-year-old Williams several times while he was in training:
In the dead of night, the assistant drill sergeant woke Williams and ordered him to a second-floor office.
Williams stood before the sergeant in his government-issue T-shirt and boxers. He stared straight ahead, like he was supposed to. Suddenly, the sergeant choked him, threw him on the floor.
“He was all over me. He was raping me.”
After it was over, Williams cleaned himself up and went back to bed.
“In the military, everyone pulls together. I did not want to be the one who let everyone down.”
The article states that the cadets were cut off from the outside world. They were not allowed any calenders or watches, nor were they allowed to make phone calls or leave the base. Williams kept the rape to himself. The sergeant came back several days later. This time, the sergeant beat Williams and knee-dropped him in the kidneys. Williams later fell on rocks during a training session, making the injuries worse.
Williams talked to the drill sergeant following the third rape:
By then, other cadets had reported seeing blood in Williams’ urine. His bladder was damaged, but he was not hospitalized until many weeks later. Only one kidney was functioning then. He remembers being told in the hospital that he might not make it.
By December of that year, the Air Force career that Williams coveted was over. He was honorably discharged for medical reasons and sent home to suburban Seattle.
“I did not get timely and appropriate medical care. They discharged me when I wasn’t dischargeable. Like a dummy, I kept doing what they told me to do.”
That began Williams’ painful journey. He attempted suicide while at Lackland Air Force Base. Once discharged, he moved from marriage to marriage, unable to make any of them work because he considered himself worthless. He continued to live with the injuries resulting from the rape, including being unable to control his bladder. During all of this, he constantly fought with the Department of Veterans Affairs for help:
“I have service-connected problems,” he says. “I should be able to get help. I’ve had to learn how to live with the pain. I have not felt like I deserved anything.
“They treat all of us this way. That’s why so many of us are committing suicide.”
His rape went unacknowledged in his military records. It wasn’t until last year that the Veterans Administration recognized that Williams had been sexually assaulted. He was given a 70% disability rating for post-traumatic stress disorder and a 40% rating for lower back impairment. The VA said it based its review on the informed opinion of psychiatrists and statements from Williams’ mother and a fellow Air Force recruit.
“We have therefore conceded corroboration of these traumas,” the VA said.
One of Williams’ former therapists, Dr. Robert Baize, says Williams will need counseling the rest of his life. He was suicidal twice. He could be again.
Williams’ story is horrible, and unfortunately he is not alone. The Pentagon’s latest report found that 13,900 men were sexually assaulted last year, but only 24% filed complaints. Female survivors garner more attention because of their proportionality in the military. Women make up 15% of the total military force, but 47% of the reported cases.
However, it is possible, and likely, that male survivors make up the larger portion of victims and simply remain silent because of cultural and military norms. The lack of services willing to assist male survivors only makes that worse:
Bay Pines is the only Department of Veterans Affairs facility in America that offers residential treatment for male victims of military sexual assault as well as women. Evidence suggests that men may suffer more severe symptoms and are less likely to get help, raising the specter of other problems, like suicide.
Read that again. The majority of reported cases of sexual violence in the military involve male victims, yet only one VA facility in the country offers residential treatment for men.
This is what happens when one treats an issue that affects everyone as a “gender-violence” problem. The other (apparently non-) victims do not get the help they need. When combined with the attitudes in the military and cultural attitudes about male vulnerability, this leaves abused men little recourse. They must tough it out, turn to drugs, or turn to suicide to cope with their problems.
What makes this particularly disgusting is that these men chose to fight for their country. They chose to give the ultimate sacrifice, and rather than help them, we ignore them.
There is no reason why it should take 47 years to help a man raped by his drill sergeant. There is no reason why he should not receive the assistance he needs given that he was injured while in the military. The VA is supposed to care for the troops, whether they are war veterans or cadets. To ignore Williams the way the VA did is outrageous.
There is a push to change things. The STOP Act, if passed, will take the responsibility for handling these cases away from the chain of command and give it to an oversight committee. Granted, there are potential problems with that, such as a continued focus on female survivors while ignoring male survivors. However, the STOP Act will at least be a step in the right direction.
We should not allow any rape survivor to suffer in silence, especially not for half a century.