Dear Dr. Whitley: It has come to my attention that you recently ignored a subpoena to appear before a Military Sexual Assault Committee hearing last month in Washington D.C., spearheaded by Rep. John Tierney and Rep. Henry Waxman. You Dr. Whitley are the head of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) for the military are you not? By ignoring this subpoena, you showed a total disregard for your position and outright disrespect to all women who have served and are serving in the military today.
A fellow service member attacked me in my dorm room, while on active duty in 1987. I was not fully raped. He entered my room with a master key and was rubbing his hand over and inside my genitals when I woke up. I turned on my bedside light and said, “What the f*** is going on here?” I saw him for a brief second. He looked like an Airman from the Administrative Office on base. Luckily for me he ran out of the room. I woke the next day, disoriented, and afraid to tell anyone what had happened. I kept quiet. For two weeks I slept with the dresser up against the door. And then he raped someone. She didn’t wake up in time. She didn’t yell loud enough. Maybe, she didn’t have the same bedside light as me but after hearing of her attack and seeing my perpetrator, I came forward and told my story.
At the time there was no reporting agency like SAPRO. I just happened to have an excellent female boss, a woman named Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) Beva Gathje. She gently guided me through the awful court process. I say awful because most victims of sexual assault would rather eat glass than have to recount their story time and time again to a strangely titillated, slightly doubting and strongly provoked audience. SMSgt Gathje made sure that I had everything I needed. She even offered counseling. I instantly denied it, knowing it would cost me my security clearance and I would never be able to perform the job I dearly loved as an Intelligence Analyst. The Airman was removed from the base and to this day I don’t know what became of him.
With my attack 21 years behind me, I never thought I would have to recount the story of my attack. But as more and more women from Iraq and Afghanistan came forward to tell their stories, I knew it was important to amplify the cloaked history of sexual assault of women in the military not only overseas during wartime but those attacks that had happened stateside, in Basic Training and during “Peace Time.”
It became readily apparent that we needed to address the severe lack of accountability by Senior Military Officials and Congress; and the gross negligence on the parts of our leaders to understand how to deal appropriately with victims rights and needs not only a year or two after the attack, but when (and if) the victim should ever come forward and seek assistance. In addition, there continues to be a lackadaisical approach to punishing the attacker, and a blatant ignorance of the perpetrators reintegration into civilian society and no civilian tracking of these sexual predators.
Imagine my relief when I heard in late 2005, that the military had assigned an entire department called SAPRO and that the woman running it would be Dr. Kaye Whitley. I thought surely, there will dramatic shifts in gathering data, the reporting procedure, assigning appropriate punishment under civilian law and a monitoring system of these predators. I imagined that the military would restore its dignity and uprightness rather than becoming a place where sexual predators have safe haven. And I imagined the victims being awarded help, regardless of when or where they served, forever. Because that’s how long the nightmares last, that’s how long the dresser stays up against the door, forever.
And as I thought of this, I waited patiently, as did the rest of the victims, some public, some still hiding quietly reliving their attack. I conjured images of the awesome possibilities that would come of this new government agency, perceiving you as a qualified and respectable agent for change.
Imagine my deep disappointment when you didn’t show up for the hearing on July 31, 2008. Imagine my gross dismay when you sent Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Michael Dominguez to do your dirty work and explain why you didn’t show and why he was suddenly accountable.
The opening paragraph of the SAPRO website says: “SAPRO serves as the single point of accountability for Department of Defense (DOD) sexual assault policy.”
How exactly does the head of the “single point of accountability” just not show up to a hearing about her agency to which she has been subpoenaed? This is an outrage and drives a stake through the integrity of all government institutions.
You are a disgrace to women Dr. Whitley. What a shame that you didn’t show up and present the facts. Isn’t that your job: to give us the facts?
You can blame others all you want, but at the end of the day; you were the one who was accountable to report to this hearing and in failing to do so, you failed to report to all victims of sexual assault in the military.
And lastly, I’d like to publicly extend my deepest gratitude to USAF SMSgt Beva Gathje. You saved my life by simply showing up. Thank you.
USAF, Sgt. (1985-1989)
PO Box 295
Culver City, CA 90232
Cc: Col. Cora Jackson-Chandler
Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services
2850 Eisenhower Ave, Suite 100
Alexandria, VA 22314
Telephone: (703) 325-6640
Fax: (703) 325-6710/6711
Footnote to American Women: Listen to the wise words of a woman who actually shows up to do her job: Rep. Jane Harman who said recently: “You have a better chance of being raped on active duty than being killed in Iraq.” This is a dangerous time for women in the military, and with Kaye Whitley at the helm of SAPRO the future is dim. One in three women are sexually assaulted in the military and of the eleven women killed in Iraq in 2008, six of the “non-hostile” deaths are still “under investigation.”
Please write to Congress and to your Senators. Let them know how you feel about sexual assault in the military and demand a full-blown investigation into the dramatic increase of the rape and murder of women in the Armed Forces.
Or contact Dr. Whitley directly to ask her why she is unable to show up for a subpoena at: SAPRO@wso.whs.mil or call 703-696-9422 or call Col. Cora Jackson-Chandler with the Task Force assigned to this case (info above).
And if you still feel inspired, please write to Congressman Waxman, Congressman Tierney, and Congresswoman Harman and thank them for their relentless commitment to truth and justice.
by April Fitzsimmons
Republished with permission from The Mad As Hell Club, where it first appeared.
April Fitzsimmons (Woman of Mass Distraction) is a writer/actor/activist living in Los Angeles. After a brief stint in a Montana slammer she joined the Air Force at 17 and became an Intelligence Analyst during the Cold War. A visit to the National Security Agency changed her forever and she high-tailed out of the classified world with a bevy of no-good secrets and an honorable discharge and headed to Hollywood. She crewed several films and wrote a book called Breaking & Entering, about how to land your first job in Film Production. After 9/11 she joined Veterans for Peace and wrote a solo show called THE NEED TO KNOW that has run for six years in LA. THE NEED TO KNOW is now playing at Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks and in August 08′ at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. You can see articles, essays and show times at her website: www.aprilfitzsimmons.com April Fitzsimmons welcomes your comments. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another article by April:
21 May 2008 Winter Soldier
Supporting documentation about a DOD Cover Up of Sexual Assault in the Military
Breaking news: http://thinkprogress.org/2008/08/13/after-pressure-from-waxman-gates-allows-pentagons-sexual-assault-expert-to-testify/
The Cover Up (video)
Domestic Allies for Women Veterans who have been Sexually Assaulted
Domestic Allies of Military Sexual Predators