Women in the military services labeled “crazy” for reporting rape

Women have long been unduly oppressed by psychiatry. This oppression is still taking place. In the military, according to a CNN report, Rape victims say military labels them ‘crazy’, women are being dishonorably discharged from the armed forces for reporting rape and sexual assault.

CNN has interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard, who tell stories that follow a similar pattern — a sexual assault, a command dismissive of the allegations and a psychiatric discharge.

Obviously the prospect of being kicked out of the service for reporting a sexual offense, and receiving a psychiatric label to boot, would make many women leery of making any such report.

Despite the Defense Department’s “zero tolerance” policy, there were 3,191 military sexual assaults reported in 2011. Given that most sexual assaults are not reported, the Pentagon estimates the actual number was probably closer to 19,000.

The psychiatric excuse used for discharging most of these women has been that of having a personality disorder label. An FOIA request found that 31,000 service members were released from service on grounds of having a personality disorder label between 2001 and 2010. The personality disorder label is being used disproportionably on women in all branches of the military.

In the military’s eyes, a personality disorder diagnosis is a pre-existing condition and does not constitute a service-related disability. That means sexual assault victims with personality disorder discharges don’t receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help with their trauma. They can still apply for benefits, but it’s considered an uphill battle.

This circumstance, of course, creates undue hardship for the discharged service member forced to go without benefits and expected to pay penalties on a term of duty uncompleted.

I would imagine that a large number of them get labeled borderline as borderline personality disorder is a diagnosis often used by psychiatrists on people who are seen as disagreeable or difficult.

Adjustment disorder is was another disorder label used to get rid of soldiers who report rapes and sexual assault. Adjustment disorder is described as an excessive response to stressful circumstances.

Representative Jackie Spierer of California has introduced legislature that would take sexual assault cases out of the chain of command, under the auspices of higher ups, and that would assign them to a separate autonomous office at the Pentagon. This would represent a definite improvement as the commanders in charge are often the reason these reports are not being taken seriously.

A former Coast Guard member, Panayiota Bertzikis, runs a website for survivors of such attacks, mydutytospeak.com, and she also runs The Military Rape Crisis Center . She and other ex-soldiers are suing the Defense Department for damages owing to a culture that permits such assaults to occur.

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13 Responses

  1. Well, I suppose the guys need a change from raping civilians in war zones. Interestingly, nobody in the immediate military hierarchy seems to think that men punching and raping their colleagues suggests that they might have any kind of personality disorder.

    What this does constitute besides the obvious harm to the women is an act of treason. These men are traitors to their fellow soldiers and therefore to their country. So are the men who try to cover up the crimes of the perpetrators.

    The fact that the military is using a psychiatric label in an attempt to silence these women shows just how powerful the labels are. With military superiors committing these crimes in most instances and with others ignoring or condoning the crimes, these women have few options.

    One cannot help but think that a dose of Lorena Bobbitt style swift justice might be in order. These ladies have access to firearms; if one lady were to shoot one man’s penis off, that might serve as a more effective deterrent to future rapists than any amount of legislation. Sew that back on.. ..sir.

    • As for the men assailing and raping women, good point. The problem was not created by the women.

      I don’t think radical surgery of the sort that Lorena Bobbitt performed would go over very well here at all. First, you’re dealing with military courts and not civilian courts. The law there is a little more severe and executed with less scruples. Second, if any women cuts off a man’s penis, this act is more likely to get her labeled than not. If you remember, Lorena Bobbitt was prosecuted.

  2. Yes, and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. I am not so sure about that but the thing is that everybody knows her name because of what she did. (Her abusive husband is an ex-marine, by the way, to keep the military theme going..) Of course I was being controversial with my suggestion, but I think that the military would have a hard time brushing that one under the carpet! If a woman were armed and managed to get a shot off during an attack, then she could justifiably claim that she was acting in self defence. Until the military takes these cases extremely seriously, I would recommend that female soldiers remain armed and vigilant. Sleep with your hand on your gun, ladies.

    • As if the mental hospital was a good place, and as if Loreena Bobbitt were “crazy”. One way or another these ladies have to deal with chain of command, and I don’t think throwing caution to the wind will necessarily result in a good outcome. As with all the cases in the CNN report, and despite the justness of their causes, bad things happen to good people. You’ve got a biased and lying media, and unlike as so often happens on the silver screen, the good guys don’t always win, and the bad guys don’t always lose. We’re dealing with violence and prejudice directed against women, yes, but reacting to that violence with more violence will only add fuel to the fire. The military is an accomplice in this violence, and in slander, directed at these women. What we actually need is for the military service to do the right thing and prosecute rapists rather than their victims. If there ever was a no-brainer, then that’s it.

  3. Forty-five days in a mental hospital is better than a long prison sentence.

    Men who choose to rape women are the ones who ought to be considered to be “throwing caution to the wind” but this is not the case at present because they know they can get away with it. The chain of command is where the rapists are coming from in a lot of cases, so there is an abuse of rank going on too, which in such a close knit community makes for a very difficult situation for these women.

    You are right, of course, with regards to the military prosecuting the rapists, but I think it is a bit of a Utopian view to expect that to pan out any time soon. You are also saying that women should not “add fuel to the fire” as if they are the ‘gentler sex’ who ought to know better. Does knowing better mean putting up with rape and then reporting it afterwards? In a situation where they are under physical attack from their colleagues, their first responsibility is to protect themselves. Dealing with an attack in the moment will leave the woman with less emotional scarring and if the man comes away with a scar of his own or worse, other would-be rapists might think twice. In terms of what kind of outcome this would have, it is hard to see how it would not be considered self-defence. Yes, there is always the possibility that there may not be a good outcome, but the outcome these women are getting at the moment isn’t so hot.

    They have the right to protect themselves and meeting violence with violence is the only way to do that. That is what soldiers are trained to do, so that is what is best understood.

    • Panayiota Bertzikis is doing something about the problem. Other survivors of rape and assault are working with her. Self-defense as a legal defense is one thing, but you can’t always win those cases in a court of law. Its his word against her word, and given the scenarios delineated above, due to chain of command, it can be their word against her word, and that’s just plain bad odds.

      I get your point, but when the military are doing the wrong thing in the first place, I don’t think it’s likely to garner any more sympathy for the victim. You compound violence with violence, and then you’ve got the same problem you started with, the bullying and oppression of women. The start of a solution is to be found in rape and assault survivors banding together and fighting this state of affairs. They can do something about the matter, and they’ve got such a cut and dried issue of right on their side that they are bound to win eventually.

  4. I get your point about the odds but I do not think that casting female soldiers as potential victims who might end up being rape and assault survivors helps them.

    “That they are bound to win eventually” does not bode well for those still at risk, does it?

    Women in the military need to get together and see what they can do about prevention.

    • Who’s casting them as “potential victims”? This casting as you call is the reality, it’s not the illusion. Victimization happens. Surviving is a matter of overcoming that victimization. Women don’t go into service to get raped and abused.

      Of course it doesn’t.

      Penalizing the criminal rather than the victim is preventative. Persecuting the victims of a crime rather that the guilty only encourages more crime. The right thing to do is to treat rape and assault like the serious crimes that they are. This is a matter than can only be taken care of with a collection of punative damages, and an enforcing of the law. When this kind of thing occurs, and the chain of command is credited with being the reason, I’d say that the time has come for a change of command.

  5. Well, your argument appears to be that women should not fight back to protect themselves but that as “rape and assault survivors” they can “band together” to fight “this state of affairs” and that with “such a cut and dried issue of right on their side.. ..they are bound to win eventually.”

    It is all well and good to say that things will come right “eventually” after a number of women have sacrificed their lives in order to fight for change. What about what happens to female soldiers in the meantime? You observe and recommend a peaceful approach from the safety of your home, but what would you do in that situation?

    I would say that the gloves are off once a rapist makes his move.

    Prevention can be addressed within the military as a first line of defence. It should not be the case that female soldiers have to fight the enemy within, but the reality is that they do have to. Organising themselves into groups along with men they really feel that they can trust in order to look out for one another as much as possible would be a start. Training in rape-specific disabling tactics is crucial. And raising awareness about incidents with certain individuals that cause concern would alert people to a potential attack, thereby giving them a chance to prevent one.

    Progress towards the legal and structural changes that are necessary will take as long as it takes. In the meantime there are a number of things women in the military can do to protect themselves. They have the right to protect themselves and empowerment to resist is surely a lot better than picking up the pieces afterwards.

    • Sexual assault and rape should not be occurring in the military service or anywhere else. Women have to fight back. It’s a matter of survival. I can’t speak for any women, they have to speak for themselves. We are dealing usually with the weaker woman overpowered by the stronger man. There are casualties of rape, too. We call these casualties, when they are discovered and exposed, murders. When her very existence is in jeopardy, she will do whatever she thinks is necessary in order to survive the ordeal.

      Sexual assault and rape are illegal. This is about sexism in the military services. Enforce the law, and everything is as it should be. The problem is that serious alllegations have not been treated like serious allegations. Sexism is the culprit in these cases, and it is this sexism that needs to be addressed. Victims don’t anticipate being raped. These woman are in the military. Picking up the pieces is one thing, killing or maiming a person, in self-defence or for any other reason, that’s another. Survival is of primary importance here. Until changes occur, you’re stuck with the system you’ve got, and the people who are trying to make changes to that system.

  6. That is close to what I just said in many respects.

    It is not, however, just about sexism in the military services. Saying “enforce the law, and everything is as it should be” is naive. Rape laws are not guaranteed to stop rapists. Yes, the law should be enforced and the military should take allegations seriously. Besides that, there is a place for self-protection and prevention. Rather than women having to “survive the ordeal”, we should be looking at ways of preventing the ordeals.

    • Where rape is a crime of opportunity, coupled with power, by enforcing the law you are being preventative. We could go so far as to outlaw relationships among service members, but I think that would be going way too far. It would be 1984ish in fact.Teaching parents not to raise rapists would I think require a little more than we are ever going to get, especially in this age of let-the-parents-(and everybody else for that matter)-off-the-hook escapism.

      The other side of this argument goes like this, people should not be discounted by having a psychiatric label attached to them. Repeal Mental Health Law, and legitimate complaints are no longer a prosecutable offense to be dealt with by the thought police. Do something about sexism and mentalism, and we’ve taken care of that one. This action is very preventative but, of course, you’ve got an uphill climb to make before this argument wins favor.

      I just ran across a review of a book that looks interesting. Especially where you are concerned, GM. The book is called, Surviving Identity, and the review, ironically, We are not all mentally ill now. I’ve always been a little wary of the “trauma informed” approach to doing therapy. This book seems to go right to the juggler.

  7. I think we are on the same page about the law. Parents too. We need to educate men about rape and its effects. The way we objectify women in society is a big issue to contend with and your comments on sexism and “mentalism” are correct. My additional thoughts are that prevention should extend further than the law; whichever way you look at it, there is always going to be some lowlife who thinks that he can get away with it. Then even when he is prosecuted appropriately, the woman still has to live with what happened.

    Introducing preventative measures is empowering for women and educating men should run alongside this. Better for a woman that she has support from her colleagues and the skills to foil an attack.

    I agree that outlawing relationships is inappropriate on a number of levels. One may as well say that relationships turn men into rapists and that is insulting to men who treat women with respect. Rapists have it in them regardless.

    Re. the book:

    Especially where I am concerned, how so do you think? Re. trauma, perhaps? It is an overused diagnosis but the real thing is disabling.

    From the review:

    “He is particularly insightful on the self-defeating way that the ‘survivor’ identity is sought by people who want to take control of their problems, but ends up making a virtue out of suffering. The status of survivor becomes a platform from which people seek to win resources and recognition from government and others.”

    I would be interested to know what people make of that statement. Clearly there is a danger with self-labeling if that becomes a person’s sole identity.

    The comments about respect are interesting; I would tend to concur with those. Then:

    “McLaughlin’s telling of the interaction of anti-psychiatry and survivors groups at a time when once-shaming diagnoses of emotional trauma are becoming a source of pride and identity is very good.

    “The last chapter of Surviving Identity, ‘the imposition of vulnerable identity’ – with its passages on the ‘legal construction of the vulnerable adult’ – is very striking. It shows that at each turn, the adoption of the language and self-identity of vulnerability leads not to greater status, but to the surrender of more and more rights to the state.”

    He is talking about the potential victimhood of the survivor state. That is something that concerns me, not necessarily with regards to benefits and the like, but to a person’s existence and focus in life.

    [I presume you mean the book goes straight to the vein in your neck rather than a man who plays with his balls!]

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