Speaking Out against Military Sexual Assault

Guest blogger Leah Taylor, a recent graduate of the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina, writes about the film Soldier Girl and the importance of speaking out against sexual assault.

After studying social work for almost six years and serving as an advocate for sexual assault survivors, I’ve learned a lot about sexual violence. I’ve learned that it affects everyone, without discrimination – our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, colleagues, and strangers. Sexual assault is even more problematic within systems of power in which survivors fear retribution and worry about their job security if they report. As other STSM bloggers and the national media have discussed at length, sexual assault is epidemic in the military. Our troops – including thousands of men  have had to silently endure rape, sexual assault, and discrimination within a separate system of reporting.

I recently watched Soldier Girl, a documentary featuring S.C. female veterans discussing various aspects of their military service.Their stories stirred up many emotions and questions inside of me. These women have dedicated their lives to the mission of serving their country, and the level of disrespect, violation, and cruelty that they sometimes endured should not be tolerated.

Men and women who risk their lives to serve our country need to be protected from these types of crimes. I’m saddened by the lack of accountability and punishment faced by perpetrators. When will the military take down these barriers to justice and provide survivors with the respect and support they deserve? When will the U.S. Congress support bipartisan efforts, such as those spearheaded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, to improve how sexual assault is handled by the military? When will stories like those told in The Invisible War and Soldier Girl no longer be common-place examples of the military’s failure to protect their own?

I am optimistic that these changes will happen in my lifetime. We must come together to fight the injustices done to us, our friends, and our families. We must share our stories, we must listen to others, and we must not stand idly by. There is power in unity. There is power in you. What will you do?

Leah Taylor, LMSW, is a dedicated social worker and a spoken-word poet. She interned at Burton-Pack Elementary School and was involved with Midlands Reading Consortium. She loves to write, read, and travel.