Sarah Blum sat down to write a book about the war experiences of military women.
But when some 60 women veterans disclosed — many willingly, some reluctantly — the sexual abuse they’d suffered while serving their country, she tapped a darker story.
And Blum realized she had something strong, sordid, impactful.
Something that had to be said.
Blum’s recently released book, “Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military” (Brown Sparrow Publishing), seven years in the making, is an unflinching, steely-eyed examination of the extraordinary culture of violence and sexual abuse within the armed forces.
“I never went in consciously to write about this subject,” said Blum, a decorated nurse Vietnam veteran and a practicing nurse psychotherapist specialist who lives in Auburn. “(But) once I worked through all my emotions about it … it became very clear.”
“It is time for accountability and justice for these women,” Blum said in her powerful book. “It’s about bringing justice. … Most of the public has no clue that this is going on, and it’s been going on for decades.”
Blum, 73, discusses her book at the Auburn Public Library on Saturday. The public can meet the author and purchase her book from 2 to 4 p.m. at the library, 1102 Auburn Way S.
The book is part of Blum’s mission, which is to call on national, Congressional and military leaders to address and correct the problem. What’s more, she hopes to engage the public in influencing and forcing leaders to take a hard look at the problem and bring needed cultural change to the military.
“I really believe the military is not going to change unless the public insists that they do,” Blum said.
Blum says there is well documented failure in military leadership to address sexual assault cases.
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 against 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 unpunished, even protected. The victim, perhaps fearing retribution, is shunned, shamed and isolated.
To directly deliver the message, Blum spent time in November and December at a Washington, D.C., meeting with Congressional leaders, urging them to take a look into the Uniform Code of Military Justice as it relates to sexual assault cases.
Blum personally delivered 108 copies of her book, each with a special note written inside, to members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee.
Blum also has appeared on radio programs, including “The Doug Noll Show”, and written editorials for newspapers.
She recently gave a presentation to Inspire Seattle, a progressive policy group. She plans to attend a national publicity summit in New York City next month to meet the media and pitch her book in an effort to propel the message to the masses.
Blum remains active in veteran’s affairs and has successfully lobbied Congress to study the connection between Agent Orange and birth defects in the children of women who served in Vietnam.
“It’s been slow in terms of getting the message out, reaching out,” Blum said of her latest campaign. “Everybody who has read the book has given me great feedback. … It’s just a matter of getting it out to a wider audience.”