Thursday, November 21, 2013

So Yeah...

I may have just bitten off more than I can chew, but I think on some level I needed to do this. I've been keeping an eye on the progress being made with (hopefully) passing the Military Justice Improvement Act, being led by New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand. While it makes my quite happy to see that SOMETHING is finally being done about the plague of harassment & rape withing the military ranks, it pains me inside that no one put forth this effort to protect ME when I needed it most. So, events being what they are, I decided to send an email to the good Madam Senator regarding my circumstances: For good or ill, hopefully for good, I sent her THIS MESSAGE just about five minutes ago... 

My stomach is fluttering, has been since I hit the SEND button.

"Dear Madam Senator,

My name is Jenifer Chadbourne (my friends call me Jen)  and I'm an Iraqi Freedom Veteran. I've been carefully watching the unfolding progress regarding the Military Justice Improvement Act throughout the year, I ETSed out of the Army just this Summer actually, it's hard to believe at time that it had the problem had to escalate this badly for some serious action to finally be taken.

While I'm thrilled beyond words that the MJIA is within grasp, this progress came far too late for me. When I was deployed in 2010-2011 I wasn't regarded by my unit as an actual Soldier, just a walking pussy with an M-16. Life was terribly lonely, but I did my job.

Granted, and I may as well be honest with you here, I DID commit one UCMJ violation: Fraternizing. One man who treated me like a human being, but still outranked me rather significantly (a CW2 from Utah) but what followed after we were discovered was grossly inappropriate and I would call it "dehumanizing."

A squad-mate from my unit forced his way into my living quarters that night, grabbed my shirt-collar and shoved me into a wooden cabinet, then as soon as I got back up on my feet he rushed straight at me. Right then at that very second, my NCO walked past the open door and demanded to know what was going on: I've spoken to chaplains, psychiatrists, even lawyers (military and civilian) about that event, they seem to agree that had that NCO NOT come by when he did, that squad-mate was likely about to horribly assault me.

For months after those events, even well after I got home from Iraq, I was relentlessly cat-called and harassed by my own fellow Soldiers. I complained of the behavior repeatedly but they insisted that not only should I have anticipated this due to my transgression but to "just be flexible" and endure it. To this very day, to the best of my own knowledge and inquiry, not a single one of them were ever held accountable for these events.

Fine, I made a foolish mistake and I got a slap-on-the-wrist for it, much lighter than what it could have been, but that's not the point nor the problem: Were this simply a matter of being punished for a mistake I made, I'd have been able to face the consequences like any other adult, accept them, and have moved on with my life a long time ago.

I even looked my own Commanding Officer right in the eyes and told him EVERYTHING that had happened, and again, to the best of my knowledge, he never addressed or disciplined any of them for harassing me nor for shoving me into wooden furniture (which was quite unpleasant and painful, might I add)

Is THIS how the Army disciplines female Soldiers who stray from their path? By physically assaulting and berating them in such extreme capacities? The name-calling and inquiries about me supposedly "carrying the Chief's baby" (I can't have children, I had an IUD implanted in 2008) were so frequent and so disgusting that I took to hoarding my roommate's painkillers and considered swallowing as many as 12 at once: I think you can gather to what effect, I was that desperate.

OF COURSE I didn't tell anyone I was feeling so beaten, they obviously wouldn't listen to me so what good would it have done? Even after I got home from the deployment I went to as many NCOs and civillian resources as I could, but they all told me the same thing: You messed up, you should have anticipated being treated this way. Only recently, now that I'm no longer in the Army, have I really opened up about this publicly, I can't bear the thought of any other Soldier, male or female, being "punished" for ANYTHING in the same way that I was.

Madam Senator, while I have every bit of confidence that the MJIA will do a world of good for our service-members who need it most, there is till MUCH WORK to be done to change the culture and mind-sets of those who think this manner of behavior is in ANY WAY okay. When it's perfectly acceptable in their eyes to brutalize someone wearing the same uniform you are, regardless of how trivial their infractions, we have a much deeper rooted problem than just the act itself. 

If someone has to break the rules to punish someone else for breaking those same rules, that's a very clear indicator that they shouldn't be in a command position.

Madame Senator, maybe my story isn't anything terribly special to some, but this has affected me much to my own detriment even today. If I can do ANYTHING, within the realm of the law, to stop this from happening to anyone else, please point me in the right direction so that I can help them.

The Army may not WANT their female Soldiers, but now more than ever they NEED them whether they like the idea or not.

Please tell me what, if anything, I can do to help anyone in the same circumstances I've been through. 

In any case, I'd like to thank you for at least taking the time out of your busy schedule to hear me. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how the MJIA hearings proceed and develop. 


I don't know if men in suits are going to show up at my door, or maybe nothing will happen at all, but still: I've never written a US Senator before in my life, about ANYTHING.

There was a hearing about the MJIA in the Senate yesterday, I watched as much of it as my poor old laptop could handle on C-SPAN's website (sadly, it wasn't much) but I'm keeping my figurative fingers crossed for further progress.

It should not have come to this, Commanding Officers should just do the right thing and do their damn jobs, but obviously there are some that just don't give a shit. It's time for that to stop.

And if I can help, I'll be more than happy to.

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