Today was an interesting day and it’s going to be an interesting two weeks! I am in training to be certified as a Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Victim’s Advocate for my Agency. I volunteered for the position. It’s not really a position – I’ll continue doing the job that I’m currently doing. I’ll also be in an on call status for anyone who might need my service, once certified. And of course I pray no one ever needs my advocacy…
I’m really grateful to my supervisor for supporting me on this. He didn’t have to let me do it. Not only is it two weeks of training but there is no way of knowing how much time I may have to take away from my work to advocate when needed.
Those who have worked in the military or Defense know that whenever the media picks up on something – like sexual assaults in the military – all of a sudden there is a mad rush for training and prevention/awareness campaigns. We just went through an all-out training effort and as part of that training we were shown the documentary, “The-Invisible-War.” It is also available on Netflix.
As an E-3 in the Navy in 1982, I was told by a male Petty Officer that if I didn’t go out with him, he was going to push all the work onto me. I didn’t really believe him and I wasn’t about to go out with him. Long story short – I didn’t go out with him – He pushed all of his work onto me – I reported him – most of my chain of command either tried to intimidate or ignore me – my Chief (E-7) worked incredibly hard to see that justice was done – my Captain (O-6) called me into his office (alone) closed his door and told me the charges would be dropped and nothing more would be said. End of story.
Fortunately for me it was the end of the story and I had been harassed, not assaulted. But remembering what I went through as the “victim,” I’ve always felt enormous compassion whenever there was a news break like Tailhook or the recent Air Force Officer’s attack on a woman in the Pentagon parking lot. Compassion because I usually feel that the victim will only be more victimized by a system that not only refuses to help, but demands denial and secrecy. But I believe that is changing – really changing this time – and THAT is why I have volunteered.
I’ve taken the online training and submitted my certification package. This training is the only thing left for me to do to be complete. My Agency isn’t sure when they will have the training onsite, so I’m attending the Army’s SHARP training. I’m the only non-Army (civilian or active duty) in the room and it’s quite fascinating to sit with these folks, many of whom have recently returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s very interesting to get an insider view of the Army’s ongoing efforts.
It’s also fascinating to observe what’s coming up for me personally. Some of what’s coming up has to do with the military experience in general and I’m processing that…it’s hard to articulate. And of course the obvious that’s coming up for me – I didn’t realize that experience back in 1982 remained an open wound. In the process of healing that wound I’m able to acknowledge sexual assaults that I had long since buried or thought I had healed; assaults that I had said were no big deal – I’m over it.
I know this is where some of the anger that I’ve written about lately is coming from – buried deep inside – ready to come into the light and heal. Maybe that’s why this opportunity presented itself now – because I’m ready to face those demons. And in fact I have to face them if I want to be an effective advocate. Otherwise I will merely project my own unhealed wounds onto someone else’s experience, right? So my personal challenge is to clear the energy within my own soul and psyche so that I will be fully present and grounded in the now if I am called to serve.
I read a statistic that one in six women are sexually assaulted and I’m sorry but that number is WAY wrong. I don’t need statistics to prove my assertion because I can pretty much ask any six women if they have ever been sexually assaulted and all will have at least one story – most will play it down and explain how it really wasn’t an assault or “not that bad.”
I’m grateful for this healing opportunity and grateful to be part of what I hope is a solution to a big problem within our society. The training is FIVE days a week for two weeks, 8am – 5pm. After my amazing four day weeks (and alternate work schedule for most of my career) it’s challenging but I know it’s worth it. This coming Friday should be my last furlough day but since I’ll be in class I’ll have to take a Furlough Monday the week after training (and I’m not complaining about that). I’m not sure how to work in some exercise and while I took super healthy food with me, I also ate a bag of peanut M&Ms and a bag of pretzels – that can’t continue for two weeks! So tomorrow I will start off with a clean slate – healthy food, morning meditation, and I’m taking some walking shoes because we have 1.5 hours for lunch. It might do me some good to get out of that cold classroom and take a nice hot walk! And maybe the walk will be good for clearing my head too.