Recent Resources for Feminists
London ~ Friday 8 March 2013
International Women’s Day: Profile of a Somali Peacemaker – Zahra Ugaas FarahBy Salma Zulfiqar
Notebook Zahra Ugaas Farah (Laila Ido, UNPOS Public Information Office)
Zahra Ugaas Farah says her mission in life is to champion women’s rights in Somalia to promote peace. When war broke out in the early 1990s, Zahra says she could not watch the unfolding chaos and bloodshed without taking action. In 1992, she established an NGO in Mogadishu called the Family Empowerment and Relief Organisation (FERO) to assist victims of the conflict and work towards sustainable peace.
“Women and children started paying the highest price in the senseless killings and there was a total breakdown of the rule of law. Having experienced this horrible situation, I decided to volunteer and lead by example with humanitarian work to help the most vulnerable people in society,” Zahra said.
“I am tirelessly searching for long lasting peace in Somalia,” she explained.
“Peace is the mother of development and without peace we cannot progress as a nation,” she added. “We have a new government in place now and we should use this as an opportunity to bring everyone together to work on a long-term peace plan”.
Over the years Zahra has enforced various peace initiatives through FERO, which implements projects across South Central Somalia. One of her first peace initiatives was through a workshop called: “The Role of Somali Woman in Peace Building” held in Kenya in 2002. It allowed women delegates from civil society, the former Transitional National Government (TNG), warring factions and female observers at the Somali National Peace Conference to discuss how they could contribute and bring about peace.
The Somali Women, Peace and Education Center was also established in Mogadishu by FERO in 2002 giving more than 200 women and girls an insight into conflict resolution and offered them skills for income generation. In the past, FERO has organised football and basketball matches in South Central Somalia with mixed teams comprised of players from different clans who are playing together, on the same side, to compete for peace trophies.
Empowerment and peace-building forums have been held on a large scale as part of FERO’s activities, allowing women to take stock, enhance negotiation skills, exchange information and discuss ideas. For example, seventy women’s groups, including teachers, nurses, scholars and business women from the Banadir region attended a five-day peace-building workshop in Mogadishu in 2007.
On a national level, Zahra has participated in a number of peace processes sponsored by the international community, including, Arte, Djibouti in 2000 and Mbagati, Nairobi in 2004. Zahra was elected as the Vice-Chair of the reconciliation committees in both processes. “I feel proud to have been part of both processes and am proud of the fact that I was able to ensure that Somali women’s history was re-written and that their efforts and contributions have been appreciated,” Zahra said.
A power-sharing agreement and the declaration of the then Transitional National Government were produced at Arte in August 2000. The process also established the ‘4.5 formula’ in Somali politics, a system of fixed proportional representation by clan in both negotiations and transitional governments. Somali women achieved a great deal of success at the Arte Conference as they were allowed to represent themselves as a ‘sixth clan’ joining four major clans and a coalition of smaller one, according to Zahra.
“It was the first time Somali women were given the opportunity to sit with men and talk about peace,” she added.
Zahra believes that it is only through unity that Somali women can fight for their rights and actively participate in future peace-building and reconciliation initiatives.
“Women should consider themselves as one single entity and not as members from different clans or tribes. Together they can make a difference in our communities,” she said.
Salma Zulfiqar is the Communications Consultant for the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) & Ahmed Omar, Consultant UNPOS
Tuesday March 5, 2013
SC blames govt for female foeticide
Says it is crucifixion of a future womanDHNS
New Delhi, Mar 4, 2013:The Supreme Court on Monday passed a slew of directions to check female foeticide, noting that the law relating to pre-natal sex determination was misused with “impunity” in the country.
It observed that “female foeticide is the worst type of dehumanisation of the human race.”
A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra also directed strict implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection) Act, 1994.
“There has been no effective supervision or follow-up action so as to achieve the object and purpose of the Act. Mushrooming of various sonography centres, genetic clinics, genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, ultrasonic clinics, imaging centres in almost all parts of the country calls for more vigil and attention by the authorities under the Act,” the court said.
The court asked the Central and state governments to launch awareness campaigns against female foeticide and take steps for mapping of all registered and unregistered ultra-sonography clinics within three months.
Writing a separate but concurring verdict, Justice Misra said: “When a female foeticide takes place, every woman who mothers such a child must remember that she is killing her own child despite being a mother. That is what abortion would mean in social terms. Abortion of a female child in its conceptual eventuality leads to killing of a woman.”
The purpose of the enactment can only be actualised and its object fruitfully realised when the authorities under the Act carry out their functions with devotion, dedication and commitment and further there is awakened awareness with regard to the role of women in a society, the court added.
“Female foeticide has its roots in the social thinking which is fundamentally based on certain erroneous notions, ego-centric traditions, pervert perception of societal norms, and obsession with ideas which are totally individualistic sans the collective good. All involved in female foeticide deliberately forget to realise that when the foetus of a girl child is destroyed, a woman of future is crucified,” the court said.
Justice Misra referred to different pronouncements by the apex court as well as the sayings of thinkers, poets, philosophers and jurists on women to emphasise that they play a seminal role.
The bench directed various courts in the country to take steps to dispose of all pending cases under the Act within six months.
The court said the Central Supervisory Board and the state and union territories’ boards would meet at least once in six months to supervise and oversee effective the implementation of the Act.
Court’s express orders
-All courts to dispose of cases under prohibition of Sex Selection Act within six months~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
-Central Supervisory Board and state and Union territories’ boards to meet at least once in six months -Illegally used ultra-sonography machines to be seized;
manufacturers not to sell machines to unregistered clinics-State govts to file a status report in three months
Tuesday March 5, 2013
AP witnesses alarming dip in child sex ratioSpecial Correspondent
The monitoring of PC&PNDT Act itself is dismal in the State: Health Minister
HYDERABAD: Alarmed over the declining child sex ratio in the State over the last one decade, the government has decided to clamp down on the hospitals, medical and diagnostic centres violating the provisions of the Pre-Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostics Act 1994 and Rules 1996.
The child sex ratio of the age group of 0-6 years children in the State decreased from 961 in 2001 census to 943 in 2011 census for every 1,000 males due to female foeticide. In Warangal, it is worse as the ratio decreased from 955 in 2001 to 912 in 2011 census. West Godavari is the only district which did not show any drop in the ratio during the period which remained 970 in 2001 and 2011.
Health Minister D.L. Ravindra Reddy, who convened a meeting of the State Advisory Committee on implementation of PC&PNDT Act here on Monday, said the implementation of the Act was poor due to various factors. The State reported lowest sex ratio among the Southern States.
The Act provides for imprisonment of three years and a fine of Rs.10,000 for its violators, including individuals who seek such tests. It would be enforced strictly hereafter, he asserted.
Briefing the media persons later, he said that despite rampant violation of the Act, only 73 cases were booked in the last one decade. Of that, 31 cases were disposed of without any action and the remaining are pending. Not even a single conviction was awarded so far, he said.
Sources said that cases were also pending against corporate hospitals including Apollo and Yashoda hospitals for violation of the Act.
The monitoring of the Act itself was dismal in the State. The State Advisory Committee was supposed to meet once in four months, but the last time it met was in 2004. However, from now onwards, the committee would meet once in four months and the district-level committees headed by the Collector, once in two months, Dr. Ravindra Reddy said.
The Family Welfare Commissioner Poonam Malakondaiah was authorised to initiate criminal action against all those hospitals, medical centres, doctors and individuals who violated the Act. “We will not brook any political pressures hereafter. At the district level, DMHO would initiate action,” he added.
Priority would be given to sensitisation of police, medial officers, DMHOs, judicial officers and legal consultants would be appointed for each district. Ms. Malakondaiah said that people could call up toll free number 104 to report sex determination test and their identity would be kept confidential.
Read complete 82 page report HERE
Thursday February 28 2013, page A1
Trauma Sets Female Veterans Adrift Back Home
Owning the Past: Women who have just completed an intensive therapy program for veterans in Long Beach, Calif., shared their experiences of sexual trauma in the military, which led to homelessness for some.
By PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN
OVERCOMING PAIN Tiffany Jackson, pictured in her uniform, was raped, which set her on a trajectory of drugs and homelessness. Before her life fell apart, Tiffany Jackson had been proud of her time in the Army, exhilarated by her sense of mastery in a male-dominated environment. She tried to forget that August evening outside Suwon Air Base in South Korea when a serviceman grabbed her by the throat and savagely raped her on the urine-soaked floor of a women’s restroom. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times) See more photos HERE
LOS ANGELES: In the caverns of her memory, Tiffany Jackson recalls the job she held, fleetingly, after leaving the military, when she still wore stylish flats and blouses with butterfly collars and worked in a high-rise with a million-dollar view. Two years later, she had descended into anger and alcohol and left her job. She started hanging out with people who were using cocaine and became an addict herself, huddling against the wind on Skid Row here.
“You feel helpless to stop it,” she said of the cascade of events in which she went from having her own apartment to sleeping in seedy hotels and then, for a year, in the streets, where she joined the growing ranks of homeless female veterans.
Even as the Pentagon lifts the ban on women in combat roles, returning servicewomen are facing a battlefield of a different kind: they are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, an often-invisible group bouncing between sofa and air mattress, overnighting in public storage lockers, living in cars and learning to park inconspicuously on the outskirts of shopping centers to avoid the violence of the streets.
While male returnees become homeless largely because of substance abuse and mental illness, experts say that female veterans face those problems and more, including the search for family housing and an even harder time finding well-paying jobs. But a common pathway to homelessness for women, researchers and psychologists said, is military sexual trauma, or M.S.T., from assaults or harassment during their service, which can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sexual trauma set Ms. Jackson on her path. At first she thought she could put “the incident” behind her: that cool August evening outside Suwon Air Base in South Korea when, she said, a serviceman grabbed her by the throat in the ladies’ room of a bar and savagely raped her on the urine-soaked floor. But during the seven years she drifted in and out of homelessness, she found she could not forget.
Of 141,000 veterans nationwide who spent at least one night in a shelter in 2011, nearly 10 percent were women, according to the latest figures available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, up from 7.5 percent in 2009. In part it is a reflection of the changing nature of the American military, where women now constitute 14 percent of active-duty forces and 18 percent of the Army National Guard and the Reserves.
But female veterans also face a complex “web of vulnerability,” said Dr. Donna L. Washington, a professor of medicine at U.C.L.A. and a physician at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs medical center, who has studied the ways the women become homeless, including poverty and military sexual trauma.
Female veterans are far more likely to be single parents than men. Yet more than 60 percent of transitional housing programs receiving grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs did not accept children, or restricted their age and number, according to a 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office.
The lack of jobs for female veterans also contributes to homelessness. Jennifer Cortez, 26, who excelled as an Army sergeant, training and mentoring other soldiers, has had difficulty finding work since leaving active duty in 2011. She wakes up on an air mattress on her mother’s living room floor, beneath the 12 medals she garnered in eight years, including two tours in Iraq. Job listings at minimum wage leave her feeling bewildered. “You think, wow, really?” she said. “I served my country. So sweeping the floor is kind of hard.”
Not wanting to burden her family, she has lived briefly in her car, the only personal space she has.
Some homeless veterans marshal boot-camp survival skills, like Nancy Mitchell, of Missouri, 53, an Army veteran who spent years, off and on, living in a tent.
“That’s how we done it in basic,” she said.
Double Betrayal of Assault
Of more than two dozen female veterans interviewed by The New York Times, 16 said that they had been sexually assaulted in the service, and another said that she had been stalked. A study by Dr. Washington and colleagues found that 53 percent of homeless female veterans had experienced military sexual trauma, and that many women entered the military to escape family conflict and abuse.
For those hoping to better their lives, being sexually assaulted while serving their country is “a double betrayal of trust,” said Lori S. Katz, director of the Women’s Health Clinic at the V.A. Long Beach Healthcare System and co-founder of Renew, an innovative treatment program for female veterans with M.S.T. Reverberations from such experiences often set off a downward spiral for women into alcohol and substance abuse, depression and domestic violence, she added.
“It just pulls the skin off you,” said Patricia Goodman-Allen, a therapist in North Carolina and former Army Reserve officer who said she once retreated to a mobile home deep in the woods after such an assault.
Ms. Jackson won full disability compensation for post-traumatic stress as a disabling aftermath of her sexual trauma, although she was at first denied military benefits.
She grew up in a tough section of Compton, Calif., and served as a heavy equipment operator in the Army, exhilarated by her sense of mastery in a male-dominated environment. But after the rape which she kept to herself, not even telling her family her behavior changed. She assaulted a sergeant, resulting in disciplinary actions. Back home, she lost her job in sales after she passed out, drunk, during a business phone call. “It looked like I really had my stuff together,” she said. “But I was dying inside.”
She served three years in prison for drug dealing and finally confided in a prison psychiatrist, who helped her see that many of her bad decisions had been rooted in the sexual trauma.
“I realized I needed help,” she says today, stable finally at 32 and snug in her mother’s home in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles. “But to me breaking down was soft.”
Her lawyer, Melissa Tyner, with the nonprofit Inner City Law Center here, said that many female veterans, like Ms. Jackson, associate the V.A. with a military that failed to protect them and thus forgo needed therapy. Other women who did not serve overseas said they did not realize they were veterans. “This makes them much less stable and therefore less likely to be housed,” she said.
California, home to a quarter of the nation’s veterans, is also home to a quarter of its homeless veterans. In Greater Los Angeles, a 2011 survey found 909 homeless women among them, a 50 percent increase since 2009.
Lauren Felber was one. Her decision to enter the military was a self-preservation instinct: she said she was molested by her father throughout her youth. “He’s dead now,” she said curtly. She thought the Army would make her strong.
When Ms. Felber returned, a debilitating complication from shingles made attempts to work, including bartending and construction jobs, painful. She became addicted to painkillers including methadone. Her welcome staying on friends’ couches ran out, and she headed to Pershing Square, in downtown Los Angeles, resplendent with fountains and soaring palms. She slept on the steps. Sidewalk habitués schooled her on the ins and outs of free food. “On the street, everyone’s hustling, selling something, even if it’s friendship,” she said.
Ms. Felber spent seven months in Rotary House, a shelter run by Volunteers of America. In her journal she wrote, “I walk the streets of Skid Row and see myself in the faces of the obsolete.”
But life is finally on the upswing: she recently moved into an apartment through a program that provides permanent housing and other services, called Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, or HUD-Vash. Having a place of her own, Ms. Felber said, felt so unreal that she piled blankets and slept on the floor, as she had on the streets. But gradually, walking around the bare rooms, she felt “an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude.”
“I am fighting the fear of losing it,” she added, “while I place each new item, making it a home.”
Returning veterans face a Catch-22: Congress authorized the V.A. to take care of them, but not their families. Women wait an average of four months to secure stable housing, leaving those with children at higher risk for homelessness. Monica Figueroa, 22, a former Army parachutist, lived in a family member’s auto body shop in the Los Angeles area, bathing her baby, Alexander, in a sink used for oil and solvents until, with help, they found temporary housing.
Michelle Mathis, 30, a single mother of three, has bounced among seven temporary places since returning home in 2005 with a traumatic brain injury. Ms. Mathis, who served as a chemical specialist in Iraq, relies on a GPS device to help her remember the way to the grocery store and her children’s school.
She said she did not feel safe in a shelter with her children, so they live in a room rented from a friend who is herself facing eviction. The only place Ms. Mathis said she truly felt at home was with fellow veterans at the V.A. medical center. Because she cannot afford child care, she sees her doctors with her year-old son Makai in tow.
Transitional housing has traditionally been in dormitory settings, which worked when returnees were mostly single men. But a March 2012 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General found bedrooms and bathrooms without locks.
Dr. Susan Angell, the executive director for Veterans Homeless Initiatives for the V.A., said that each site was individual and required a different approach, whether it meant putting up walls or installing card readers to beef up security. “There is no blanket solution,” she said. “It has to fit the environment. We really want the best and safest environment for any veteran that comes to us for care.”
Pledging to end veteran homelessness by 2015, the government is pouring millions of dollars into permanent voucher programs, like HUD-Vash, for the most chronically homeless veterans. Thirteen percent of those receiving vouchers are women, nearly a third of them with children, Dr. Angell said.
A newer V.A. program, with $300 million allocated by Congress, is aimed at prevention, providing short-term emergency money to help with down payments, utility bills and other issues. The government’s motivation is financial as well as patriotic: the V.A. estimates that the cost of care for a homeless veteran, including hospitalizations and reimbursement for community-based shelters, is three times greater than for a housed veteran. A pilot project providing free drop-in child care is under way at three V.A. medical centers.
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, recently introduced legislation that would reimburse for child care in transitional housing for the first time.
An Emotional Battalion
But change in Washington can be glacial. And a sturdy roof is not always enough. On the outskirts of Long Beach, Calif., a national nonprofit group, U.S. Vets, created living quarters for at-risk families at Villages at Cabrillo, former naval housing, with a special program for homeless female veterans.
But the directors soon grew perplexed by the large number of women who were struggling to make it on their own.
“We began to understand that so many of them suffered from sexual trauma,” said Steve Peck, the group’s president and chief executive. “Their inability to cope with those feelings made it impossible for them to put one foot in front of the other.”
The result was Renew, a collaboration with the V.A.’s Long Beach center. It incorporates psychotherapy, journal writing and yoga, and it accepts women who have been screened for military sexual trauma. Each class of a dozen women lives together for 12 weeks while spending eight-hour days at a women’s mental health clinic, “where you can cry and not have to encounter a bunch of men with your mascara running,” as Dr. Katz put it.
With Dr. Katz and other guides, the women formed an emotional battalion, squaring off against unseen enemies: fear, loneliness, distrust, anger and, most insidious of all, the hardened heart.
At the program’s graduation in December, held in a therapy room, nine women spoke movingly of choosing strength over fragility. Cindi, an officer in the Air Force with a master’s degree, said she had been bullied and ostracized by a female superior. After leaving the military, she had tumbled into a violent marriage and did not want her last name used for her own safety. She had been couch-surfing for a while.
She grew up in a household brimming with neglect. In her workbook, Cindi drew an image of water boiling on a stove, representing her traumas, more powerful than her self-regard.
After years of disappointment, Cindi was finally ready to forge new ground.
“I am more than the sum of my experiences,” she read from her journal, seeming to evoke the story of every homeless veteran sister. “I am more than my past.”
Wednesday February 27 2013, page A1
Attacked at 19 by an Air Force Trainer, and Speaking Out
Lackland Rape Victim Talks of Ordeal: Virginia Messick was raped by her training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in 2011. She is the first Lackland victim to speak publicly, in this exclusive interview with the reporter James Risen.
By JAMES RISEN
SAN ANTONIO After her Air Force training instructor raped Virginia Messick, a young recruit, he told her it was fun and they should do it again, she remembers. Then he threw her clothes at her and ordered her to take a shower.
Ms. Messick was unable to move, cry or scream. She was a 19-year-old from rural Florida, in her fifth week of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, and she had just been assaulted by the man the Air Force had entrusted with her life.
After the April 2011 attack, Ms. Messick completed basic training, following orders from the instructor for nearly a month more. Afraid of the consequences, she did not tell anyone what he had done. “How am I supposed to go about reporting something,” asked Ms. Messick, “when the person I’m supposed to report to is the person who raped me?”
Now, after leaving the Air Force, Ms. Messick is the first victim of a still-unfolding sexual assault scandal at Lackland to speak publicly about what she has endured. Since accounts of sexual violence at the base began to surface in late 2011, it has emerged as the largest such episode in Air Force history.
At Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, 62 trainees were victims of assault or other improper conduct by 32 instructors. (Erich Schlegel for The New York Times)
Ms. Messick, now 21, is one of 62 trainees identified as victims of assault or other improper conduct by 32 training instructors between 2009 and 2012 at Lackland, a sprawling base outside San Antonio that serves as the Air Force’s basic training center for enlisted personnel. So far, seven Air Force instructors have been court-martialed, including Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, now serving a 20-year sentence for crimes involving 10 women, including Ms. Messick. Eight more court-martial cases are pending. Fifteen other instructors are under investigation, and two senior officers have been relieved of command.
While Air Force officials say they have taken steps to better protect their most vulnerable personnel, including appointing a female commander to oversee basic training and tightening supervision of instructors, critics say they do not go far enough in addressing an issue across the military: a high rate of sexual assaults that are often not reported because women fear reprisals. None of the victims at Lackland told Air Force officials of the attacks, and the episodes came to light only when a female trainee who had not been assaulted disclosed what she knew.
The reforms undertaken by the Air Force do not alter a fundamental fact of military life: commanders have final say over whether criminal charges are brought in military courts, and victims are expected to report crimes to those who oversee their careers.
In response to the growing outcry over sexual violence, the Pentagon last year ordered that charging decisions in sexual assault cases be determined by more senior commanders than in the past, but the directive stopped short of taking the decision out of the chain of command. Some other nations, including Britain, have taken steps to create a more independent military judicial system, but experts on military justice said that the United States has been unwilling to do so.
“The military justice system is not only to judge innocence or guilt, but is also designed to help a commander ensure good order and discipline,” said Dwight Sullivan, an appellate defense counsel for the Air Force. “Those things sometimes come into conflict.”
While more than 3,000 sexual assault cases were reported in 2011 throughout the military services, Leon E. Panetta, the departing defense secretary, has said the real figure could be as high as 19,000. The Defense Department has found that about one in three military women has been sexually assaulted, a rate twice as high as that among civilians.
“It’s no mystery why they don’t come forward,” said Laurie Leitch, a psychologist who deals with assault cases in the military. “It is like going to your boss to report that you have been sexually assaulted. How realistic is that?”
Air Force commanders say they have taken preventive action at Lackland. “There wasn’t much supervision,” said Maj. Gen. Leonard A. Patrick, who is in charge of the Air Force’s enlisted training. “But now we want to put more leadership into the equation, and more accountability.”
Virginia Messick did not initially report being raped, stymied by the fact that her attacker was the person she was supposed to tell. (Max Whittaker for The New York Times)
Several female recruits said in recent interviews that they feel safe under the new system, in which instructors no longer have sole oversight for a group of trainees and a buddy system has been instituted. “The scandal was kind of in my mind when I signed up, but I haven’t had any problems,” said Chanler May, a 19-year-old from Texas.
But Ms. Messick is skeptical. “It’s not like anything has really changed,” she said in an interview.
Identified by the news media during her assailant’s court-martial only as “Airman 7,” Ms. Messick suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. She said she decided to speak out because she believes doing so will be therapeutic, and she hopes to help change how the military deals with victims of sex-related crimes. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this,” she said.
When she joined the Air Force in March 2011, Ms. Messick was excited to leave her hometown, Baker, Fla. She was assigned to an all-female “flight” a training group overseen by Sergeant Walker. About 25 percent of those in basic training are women; the Air Force has the highest proportion, 19 percent, of women on active duty in any of the services, Pentagon statistics show.
Ms. Messick recalled that her group rarely saw any supervisor other than Sergeant Walker. He quickly began to single her out for special treatment.
He repeatedly allowed her to use his office computer to check her e-mail, a violation of basic training rules. On one office visit, Sergeant Walker grabbed her and began to grope her, Ms. Messick said. She demanded that he stop. “He said, ‘I swear it won’t happen again,’ ” she recalled.
But not long after that, Sergeant Walker ordered Ms. Messick to deliver towels to an empty floor in the trainee dorm. There, she said, he raped her.
Afterward, Ms. Messick tried to cope in silence. In May 2011, only a month after the assault, she impulsively married a friend in the Air Force. “I think I was trying to find some kind of protection,” she said. They divorced just months later.
But later that year, while she was in an advanced training program in Mississippi, a friend from basic training contacted her, reporting that Sergeant Walker was sending explicit photos of himself and demanding that she do the same. In the process, he had threatened to ruin Ms. Messick’s military career. Ms. Messick said she told her friend that the two had had sex, but did not describe it as rape. When Air Force investigators looking into the instructor’s conduct tracked down the friend, she told them about Ms. Messick.
After two and a half hours of questioning by the investigators, Ms. Messick said she provided a “watered down” version of the episode with Sergeant Walker acknowledging they had sex but refusing to offer details. “I was scared to death. And I kind of blocked out what happened,” she said. “It took me a long time to say the word ‘rape.’ ”
But in testifying at Sergeant Walker’s court-martial in 2012, she recalled, she faced the instructor and accused him of raping her. Lt. Col. Mark Hoover, an Air Force lawyer involved with the Lackland prosecutions, does not dispute Ms. Messick’s account. But because she had not disclosed the rape in pretrial interviews, Sergeant Walker was only charged in her case with a lesser count of engaging in an unprofessional relationship involving sodomy and sexual intercourse.
Virginia Messick says she was raped at basic training by Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, now in prison (Billy Calzada/San Antonio Express-News, via Associated Press)
In July 2012, he was convicted on 28 counts, including rape, sexual assault and aggravated sexual contact involving 10 trainees. Joseph A. Esparza, one of Sergeant Walker’s lawyers, declined to comment, saying that his case is on appeal.
After the court-martial, Ms. Messick said she felt lost. Out of the Air Force because of an injury, she went back home to Florida, but her PTSD grew worse. One day she smashed a vase and used the broken shards to slice her hands. “I just wanted to stop hurting,” she said.
Her mother, Marla Simmons, called the Air Force lawyer who had dealt with her daughter. “I was really upset and I told him he had to get her some help, right now, or somebody is going to pay for what they have done to her,” she said.
The lawyer arranged for Ms. Messick to get into a therapy program at a nearby Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, which she said helped. Last December she remarried.
Still, she said that her PTSD often paralyzes her. She added that other Lackland victims are also suffering from the disorder. “There are some women who can’t say what happened to them,” she said. “They have nightmares. It takes over your life.”
Today, she laments that the military experience she had dreamed would change her life has turned out to be such a bitter one.
“They are not doing anything for the people who have been through it,” she said of the Air Force’s treatment of the assault victims. “They haven’t come to me or any of the other girls to ask them what to change. They basically have left me to fend for myself.”
|<< Start < Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>|
|Results 28 - 36 of 427|