On Wednesday, the University of Maine Women’s Resource Center co-hosted an event with the Women in the Curriculum and Women’s Studies programs “Sexual Assault in the Military: Culture, Advocacy, and Reform,” part of the spring lunch lecture series hosted in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union.
Retired Lt. Col. Terry Moore addressed the issue of sexual assault in the military in a lecture, discussing the culture that surrounds sexual assault in the military, victim advocacy and reform.
Moore retired from military service in 2003 after serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force where she served at bases around the world and was the commander of a squadron of over 650 military personnel.
She currently serves as a member of the Veterans Affairs’ Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans and is a board advisor for Stateside Legal.
“Recruiters recruit many enlistees with physical and sexual abuse backgrounds,” Moore said. “Until last year, recruiters also granted ‘moral waivers’– I consider them immoral waivers — for known sexual misconduct felons. This demographic information is not shared with commanders and supervisors and this cookie-cutter approach to all things military is the norm.”
The Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office reports that 80 percent of sexual assaults in the military go unreported, and only 8 percent of prosecuted cases actually go to trial.
Moore spoke of the problems within the military that allow the issue of sexual assault to prevail and also spoke of the need for reform to address the issue.
“The Department of Defense is long overdue for reform of its mishandling of sexual assault and rape,” Moore said. “For decades, DOD claimed zero tolerance, and year after year the underestimated reports of assault continued to rise.”
Moore also addressed the resistance she often faces when discussing the issue of sexual assault in the military within military communities.
“Every time this issue raises its very ugly head, I wonder how many family members and friends are saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute, my mother, father, aunt, uncle, sister, brother served honorably,’ and I say the same thing,” Moore said. “My father served, I served, my uncle served.
“It’s painful that an organization’s lack of consistent action against a minority of offenders and its pattern of turning its back on survivors has tarnished the corporate image,” Moore said.
Moore began working publicly with the issue of military sexual trauma after watching “The Invisible War,” an Oscar-nominated documentary film by filmmaker Kirby Dick. The film discusses the issue of rape within the U.S. Military, following the stories of several male and female veterans as they attempt to rebuild their lives after having suffered sexual trauma.
After purchasing screening rights, Moore has hosted several public viewings of the film in Maine, hoping to bring awareness to the issue of military sexual trauma.
“I believe in informed choice,” Moore said. “I believe that our women and men in uniform should treat each other with dignity and respect. No U.S. citizen should be asked to sign an enlistment document giving up their civil and human rights, including the men and women who serve in our military and protect those same rights.”
The Women’s Resource Center is sponsoring a free screening of the film on April 10 in room 100 of the Donald P. Corbett Business Building at 6 p.m. Moore will also be in attendance and will conduct a short panel discussion following the film.
The WIC and Women’s Studies programs aim to bring attention to the contributions, perspectives, values and needs of women within the curriculum, while encouraging a nurturing academic environment at UMaine. The lunch series programs are free, and all are welcome to attend.
Several more lunch series programs are scheduled for the spring semester, including “Journeying Through the Labyrinth: Negotiating Sexual Identity and Masculinities Among Gay College Males” on April 17 and “Mothers, Grandparents, Fathers: Breastfeeding, Support, Tradition, and the Penobscot Nation” on April 23.
For more information about the lunch series lectures or to view the full spring 2013 schedule of events, visit UMaine.edu/womensstudies. To learn more about The Invisible War Campaign, visit notinvisible.org.