It is protocol, not justice.
It is abusive, dishonorable, unacceptable.
Women serving in the military are raped and abused, and it needs to stop. Now, not later.
So says Auburn’s Sarah Blum.
Blum, a decorated Vietnam surgical nurse, served with the 25th Infantry Division in 1967 at the 12th Evacuation Hospital in bleeding South Vietnam at the height of the war.
Today she is an advocate for the rights of women in the military and a practicing psychotherapist. For more than 28 years she has worked with PTSD and trauma resolution.
Blum, 73, also is a noted author whose newly released book, “Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military” (Brown Sparrow Publishing), takes a hard, fine-grained look at the pervasive culture of violence and sexual abuse toward women in the U.S. military.
Blum is taking her book on an exhaustive national tour.
She speaks on Veterans Day at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. on the 20th anniversary of the memorial’s dedication.
As part of her crusade, Blum plans to visit leaders in the nation’s capital to discuss the issue of military sexual assault. She vows to educate the public and inspire action from Congress to end the culture of abuse toward women in the military.
Her message is loud, clear, uncompromising.
“All of this must stop. It’s time for accountability to prevail,” Blum said at her book launch party in Des Moines last Saturday. “There is and has been a failure of leadership in our military. And it must be rectified. It’s time to fully investigate this abuse culture, clean house and begin anew with appropriate policies and actions that restore honor, integrity and accountability to our military and bring justice to our women serving.”
To write the book, Blum interviewed more than 50 women veterans over seven years.
Her book reveals how military leadership ignores and changes evidence of soldier and command rape to protect its image while destroying the health and careers of valuable women. The book chronicles the rape, humiliation and retaliation of women who served in the military in an interval spanning World War II Iraq and Afghanistan.
As Blum discovered in her research, the perpetrator is often left unpunished, and is even protected. The victim, perhaps fearing retribution, is shunned, shamed and isolated.
A 1,500-page Pentagon report estimates a rate of about 500 military men and women were assaulted per week in 2012.
Blum’s conclusion: there is simply no justice for abused women in the military.
“That’s the reason for this book,” she said, “to highlight that fact and call for action to create a more just system for them. It did not take long for me to realize how many devastating, traumatic experiences occurred. …
“(I decided) to write this book focusing on the cultural abuse in our armed forces,” Blum continued. “It’s because these repeated, abusive experiences have been kept hidden for so long that they need to be revealed. It’s because our military has been so hurtful to these women that we need to bring healing and change. It’s because of the injustices to women who report sexual assault that justice and accountability must now be our priority.”
Blum contends the military – from its lowest to its highest ranks – views women as “government property,” free to do as it wishes with them.
Not all men in the military hold these attitudes or behave in these ways, Blum pointed out, yet the abuses are pervasive and must be acknowledged and stopped.
Change begins at the top. Blum is calling on national, Congressional and military leaders to address the problem and correct it.
“It is time for accountability and justice for these women,” Blum said.