Jenny, a United States sailor explains why she is part of the Military Sexual Trauma lawsuit.

My reasons for being part of the lawsuit against the DOD are as follows:
I am a mother of children that may one day -against all of my pleading- consider military service.
The next time that I hear “Zero Tolerance,” I want it t be closer to a reality.
There is right now, this minute, a victim suffering. For them I go forward.
To encourage other people to fight back.
The most important reason for being part of the lawsuit is the one that I have typed into the comments line of the pages of countless fellow survivors. Those reasons are my three beautiful daughters and my wonderful son. Should they decide to serve, they deserve the right to serve in safety. A safety that I was denied. When I took on the ultimate responsibility, that of motherhood, I took it on in the full throws of rape trauma syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder. I demanded my own healing for my children and I demand that she not have to heal from the same crimes against her.
On behalf of the men and women serving in a silent agony, I clutch a towel that I will not throw in. I clutch that towel with steadfast commitment. We are called to fight this fight and we are called to win. I encourage my fellow survivors to join forces in responding to this epidemic and seeking justice and change through the legal process. Please sign up and be heard.
The next reasons are basic. They are justice and patriotism. A good friend from my youth wrote me a letter the other day. He apologized to me on behalf of our country. Our country did not repeatedly rape me. The whole military did not rape me rape. Most of my fellow veterans are remarkable people from diverse and interesting backgrounds. Aside from the rapes, sexual harassment, and violence, I had a great time in the Navy. Rape is permitted by a lack of training, a fear of holding people accountable, and a bully dominated system that is permitted because of the notoriously difficult duty that we entrust to our soldiers, sailors, and airmen.
Military Rape is a gaping blemish on our national character and we can live without it.
A small and overly vocal minority of sexist, homophobic, and occasionally racist individuals band together to hold the rest of the military hostage. If you study bully mentality, most of our soldiers and sailors are uneasy with the bigotry but few know exactly how to respond. Altering that is the change that we seek. How do the great people that we all knew respond correctly to the monsters that tortured us -yes it was torture- and how do we train people to effectively prevent the problem?
In my statement to the law firm that is handling the suit, I addressed the crisis of sexual harassment prevention in the military. Before a female service person is even harassed, they are told that they are at fault. Older male service personnel encourage younger men to seek all male divisions and all male ships. In integrated classes and boot camp divisions, men are told to stay away from women because if they breathe in the direction of a female service member, they will be accused of rape. Let me translate this for everyone, this implies that women are the problem and therefore sexual harassment and sexual assault is a myth.
Training that debunks that myth is why I am part of this lawsuit against the DOD and the Pentagon.
I would like to address the “Zero Tolerance” ideal. When our leaders use terms like “Zero Tolerance” I think that they believe that this is the goal but I do not believe that even Defense Secretary Robert Gates is naive enough to believe that “Zero Tolerance” is currently in place.
This gets to the meat and potatoes of why I am involved in this lawsuit. Those words, “Zero Tolerance” are about as powerful as me pleading to my rapist in 1999 “Please do not do this to me.” The term “Zero Tolerance” from the top is about as strong as my pleading: “Please don’t let this be happening, again.”
When I pleaded for justice the first time, I pleaded for a rapist to stop. When I pleaded for justice the second time, I pleaded for NCIS to remove a rapist from wearing the same uniform that I wear. My rapist still gets a paycheck. Now, I plead for justice with a bold law firm and the Service Woman’s Action Network (SWAN) consulting.
Calling the Pentagon’s policy “Zero Tolerance” does not render “Zero Tolerance” a truth. Suing the federal government is not likely to result in a win. Nevertheless, if this suit permits those that walk in our boots from here forward the ability to serve in safety, our efforts will have been meaningful. For this reason, I signed up to sue the Pentagon.
To elaborate on the current state of “Zero Tolerance for Sexual Assault” I have developed this metaphor:
One cannot sit on a couch stuffing cheese burgers and Twinkies down ones throat, guzzle cheap beer instead of water, smoke camel straights and then compete for Olympic excellence. -JSM
With roughly 3200 reported rapes in 2009 and seventy-one percent of the women seeking post military VA assistance reporting rape trauma syndrome, “Zero tolerance” is a long way off. This letter, at this time, fails to begin to address the unique and devastating issues of male MST victims but I will yield to one of our brothers to address that set of issues.
Using the term “Zero Tolerance” does not help me a decade later and it does not help the service person that is being raped right now this minute and he or she IS out there. That person is our primary responsibility. That person suffers in a way that non victim/survivors cannot imagine. With the same commitment mentioned above, I pledge a devout allegiance to the care and advocacy of the person suffering right now.
I am involved in this lawsuit to demand change and accountability in the uniformed services for everyone involved. I am involved in this lawsuit because on December 16th 2002, I took on the ultimate responsibility and became a mother. As a mother, sexual assault and violence is unacceptable and to utter those words falls significantly short of the action that must follow. This lawsuit commences the beginning of that action.
We survivors have stepped upon a vast iceberg with a mere chisel. With each conviction of a sexual predator that uses their uniform, their rank, and their -oft ill earned- breastplate to shield them from justice, we throw another chip of ice into hot water. With each effective measure to prevent sexual harassment and assault, we throw another chip of ice into hot water. When we get our day in court, our lawyer brings a jack hammer onto that iceberg.
In closing, we do not need this iceberg of sexual assault to plague our credibility as a nation. We do not need that iceberg to undermine the honest, hardworking, and hitherto silent members of the armed forces that would not tolerate sexual abuse if their careers would not suffer for having taken such a stand. We DO, however, need that jack hammer. I am involved in this lawsuit to help get that jack hammer up the slope of the iceberg.
With honor, courage, and commitment,
Jenny Shartel McClendon STG2 USN (discharged for being a rape victim) 

7 comments

  1. Thanks for all you said. I feel the same way. I have a small online support group of women veterans. You are welcome to friend me & I will introduce you to the others. Thanks again for your courage. Mary Kelley Richard

  2. Thank you for your words. I’ve joined the fight for the same reason: because no service member should be sexually assaulted while serving their country. My rape went unreported because of my sexuality, so I spent 17 years fighting against DADT. Now MST is my focus, because we are finally getting free of a military that puts far more weight on sexual orientation than sexual assault.

  3. Love this! So well said!

    “Suing the federal government is not likely to result in a win. Nevertheless, if this suit permits those that walk in our boots from here forward the ability to serve in safety, our efforts will have been meaningful.”

    And the whole iceberg analogy. Awesome! Thank you for speaking out!!

  4. Thank you for your courage to speak. I agree with you that a great deal of work and education is needed to change the mentality and ignorance that passes from one generation to the next. Young men and women should be able to serve their country in a safe environment. God created us all equal, humans created hate, abuse and injustice.

  5. That was so eloquently put and beautifully written. Thank you for coming forward and thank you for sharing and fighting this war against sexual assault in the military.

  6. Are there group lawsuits against the military for allowing these travestys? THAT seems to be the most effective way to have any effect upon the militaries mindset.
    This is mirrored in their response to the current brain damage and PTSD that is poorly responded to, Despite the words we we hear we who risked our lives are simply considered to be expendable cannonfodder!

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