The Easiest Way To Show Your Disrespect For Soldiers Is To Say What These Officers Said To Her

In the civilian world, things are hard enough when you are attacked. In the military world, the struggle can be far worse. Their stories are often covered up, they are dismissed and often booted from the military they volunteered to join while the perpetrator remains.

Olivia Gatwood (who is not a soldier), was sitting in the airport one day when she heard a bunch of troubling stories on CNN about female soldiers and what they go through when they are sexually assaulted. So she wrote a piece about it. This is the story that too many women in the military know far too well.

TRIGGER WARNING: She talks about assaults and the cover-ups that occur after.

I asked Olivia what the poem meant to her, and she responded: "After thinking it through, I realized what struck me the hardest was how formulaic the process was; how all of the women had almost identical stories. It was so obvious to me that this was a systematic erasure, such an obvious cover-up.

"In America, we talk so much about supporting the troops, but the reality is, women are being raped in extremely high numbers and then being discharged for 'emotional problems.' I knew I wanted to showcase this, so the best angle was from the perspective of the actual U.S. armed forces. What better way to expose how this system works than to articulate the rules they've already created?"

The facts about sexual assault in the military are astonishingly awful. Less that 2.5% of the reported sexual assaults result in charges against the perpetrators. Around 75% of the men and women who are assaulted report the crimes in the first place. 40% of the time, the assailant is their ranking officer. Women make up about 15% of active duty forces but account for 47% of the victims. 90% of the victims are involuntarily discharged. The numbers go on and on.

So it's important that more people know this stuff. I'd appreciate it if you shared this.

If you'd like to see more of Olivia's work, you might want to Like her on Facebook.

Show Transcript Hide Transcript

Narrator: Directives from the U.S. Armed Forces to female soldiers on how to deal with sexual assault in the military. When it happens, you will not understand why. You thought this only happened to the pair of vessel legs wobbling its way down the cement to the girl who looks like confetti drinking her rum, but not you.

Not you with your knotted bun. With your taped down breasts. Those pants do not flaunt your pubic bone. That vest does not hug your waist. This is not a place to decorate yourself, and you thought you made all the right moves. But do not be fooled by your body armor. Do not think it will make you less desirable to these men. These men love it when you dress like this. When you smell like this. When you wrap a beautiful gift in ugly paper like this. It is easy to hurt someone who looks just like you. Especially, when you hate yourself.

He has been living inside of his own pulse for months. Ripping apart his phremones. Convincing himself that the man in the next cot might just feel like a woman if he closes his eyes and opens his hands. You are the solution darling, and doesn't that make you feel worth something? You are the pill, the bourbon, the anatomical shrink. Stop making excuses for yourself. When he doesn't know how to speak softly, remember, he has been taught to bellow. When he uses his hands like a steel ram, treats your body like the locked door, remember he's been taught to knock first. When he doesn't respond to the sound of your voice, remember he has forgotten the sound of his wife's.

How can you possibly blame an animal for its lack of table manners? This is not a game of tattletale. Don't come to me with your regrets. This place is where bad decisions are born. The question is how you deal with it when this happens and you crack. You are not a victim. You are a liability. You are one step behind in the march. You are too many phone calls to your mother. You are loose boots, lazy shots, and easy fix. And, most of all, you are a burden.

You will be discharged early with a salute of soldier and a stomach like knotted rum, a gutted car in the valley. Your uniform is a small dog nipping at your hemline. Your family will not know how to praise you and you will not try to teach them. Fear is marching next to the enemy, but shooting at a stranger. Fear is a loaded barrel and not knowing who to kill. This is a war between your body and your country. Which side are you on?

There may be small errors in this transcript.

"Directives" by Olivia Gatwood, produced by my good friends at Button Poetry.

Jul 21, 2014

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