By Maggie Andresen
Petty Officer Rebecca Blumer is a classic casualty of the U.S Military’s rape culture and victim stigma. In early Febuary of 2010 near an off base bar at Fort Gorden, Georgia, Blumer was roofied by three army men and raped, as her defenses were rendered useless by the drug. Groggy and bruised, she was detained in a local jail after being arrested by police for erratic driving, and immediatly requested to be examined by medical personnel, knowing there was only a short time to collect forensic evidence. She was discouraged from asking for a rape kit, asked if she had inflicted the injuries herself, and was demoted from responding to intercepted Iraqi transmissions on roadside bombs to custodial duties on the base. Ostracized and judged as if she had lied about the rape, Blumer’s previously skyrocketing military career came to a grinding hault.
The military does not look kindly on victims, weakness is the antithesis of a soldier’s lifestyle. Of the 3,192 rape charges filed against military personel by fellow soldiers in 2012, a mere 191 ended with conviction. By prolonging the trial process, discouraging reports of assault, and reducing convictions of rape to adultery, consensual sodomy and ‘indecent language,’ those assaulted feel as if the military rather opposes than aids them. Investigators do not necessarily take allegations of rape seriously, in fact they rarely do.
“The attitude was, ‘she’s probably lying,’” a former investigator reported.
Women knocked unconscious or drunk at the time of their rape are often convinced to recant testimony of forcible rape, even if an offender has been accused several times. If they continue with their charges the case if often dropped as “unfounded.”
Offenders are more often than not allowed to remain in the military after being convicted of sexual assault. In an anonymous 2002 and 2009 survey of Navy recruits, two thirds of men were reported to have raped and if they were not caught, to have done so multiple times. In both studies the average rapist had reported about six rapes.
On the converse end, a 2010 anonymous study of recruits reported an alarming 19,000 sexual assaults, with only 13.5 percent reported to supervisors and authority figures.
“Sexual assaults make up the fabric of daily Amreican military life,” Capt. Anu Bhagwati of the Service Woman’s Action Network states.
Petty Officer Blumer waited fourteen months for the investigation of her rape to come to a conclusion, the final assessment was that no rape had taken place. Charged with a DUI, Blumer was discharged from the navy and fined $14,000 for the unfufilled years remaining on her Navy contract. She lived homeless and on stranger’s couches for a time and now lives with her fiancee in Houston. Gone are her dreams of traveling the world on Navy missions, she hopes only to rebuild a life where she can feel normal again. Her story is a trademark of the military’s crusade to protect its proud reputation and force out any threat to that careful stasis.
“I was a problem,” Blumer says, “and they wanted to be rid of the problem.”