panayiota bertzikis

Message from Panayiota Bertzikis

Greetings,

You are about to read true first person testimonies of sex abuse in the United States military. A lot of the survivors do go into details about their sexual assault, rape and the military response to the rape.  Reading these testimonies could potentially be triggering to survivors of Military Sexual Trauma or rape. Please take that into account before continue reading.

My Duty to Speak started as a writing workshop in Cambridge, MA for Military Sexual Trauma survivors that was hosted by the Military Rape Crisis Center in November 2010. The day workshop was taught by some of the greatest trauma and writing specialist in the country. By writing about what we went through while wearing the uniform we broke the silence of abuse liberating ourselves while also might be helping someone else who is feeling the same way.

We are thankful for so many survivors who came forward to share their Military Sexual Trauma testimonies with us. As you can read from the testimonies the military response to rape is often as disturbing and horrifying as the act of rape itself. Want to do something to help survivors? Take Action and call your representatives and demand better treatment for sexual assault survivors in the military. Head over to change.org and sign our brand new Petition to demand better treatment to survivors of rape in the Coast Guard. If you are interested in sharing your testimony go to Be Heard.

My staff and I are always available to you email me at panayiota@stopmilitaryrape.org . Together we are making a difference and improving the military response to sex abuse within it ranks. However, there is a lot more that needs to be done and we can not do this without you,  your support and your voice!

With gratitude,
Panayiota Bertzikis
Managing Editor
MyDutytoSpeak.com

We do not take liability for anything posted on here.

Military Rape Crisis Center Press US Coast Guard to improve Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

By Panayiota Bertzikis

One in three women as well as many men in the Coast Guard are going to fall victim of sexual assault and rape. While a lot of focus has been on the Department of Defense to make changes, the United States Coast Guard-which falls under the Department of Homeland Security has been exempt from having to implement the same DoD policies that would help sexual assault survivors.

Two weeks ago Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) wrote to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to express their concern that the Coast Guard has not yet adopted an expedited transfer policy for victims of sexual violence as have the military departments under the authority of the Department of Defense. To this day the Coast Guard refuses to adopt to the STRONG Act even though it might save the life of a Coast Guard rape survivor.

The United States Coast Guard has refused the Military Rape Crisis Center’s numerous pleas to have trained victim advocates at every single Coast Guard installation. For instance if a woman or man is raped at a small boat station in Maine they have to contact the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) in Boston, Massachusett-two states away. If that is not daunting enough many survivors and  civilian service providers report that phone calls and emails to the SARC in Boston are often not returned leaving the survivors alone, scared and vulnerable for repeat attacks.

Coast Guardsmen in Maine are not the only ones that lack the support that they need to make a confidential immediate report and receive the help that they deserve. Many Coast Guard stations throughout the United States do not have trained victim advocates to offer immediate help for survivors of sexual assault and rape.

As a Coast Guard rape survivor and a full time victim advocate working with the Military Rape Crisis Center I know first hand the severity of this epidemic. Due to the lax policies on sexual assault in the US Coast Guard what we are seeing at the Center is an increase of Active Duty Coast Guardsmen and women seeking services from us. The rapes are becoming much more violent and the retaliation for reporting an assault is becoming much more vicious.

A group of Active Duty Coast Guardsmen, veterans and the general public got together to help bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse in the Coast Guard. Together we formedwww.SupportTheCG.com as a way to bring awareness and to help end this epidemic that has hurt so many of our shipmates. Please sign the petition so our shipmates can one day serve their country without fear of being sexually assaulted and/or raped.

source

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE HEARD

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO BE HEARD: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will be holding a briefing concerning Military Sexual Trauma on Jan. 11, 2013 at 9:30 AM. Active duty and former service members, particularly those who have been victims of sexual assault are encouraged to submit written comments. These public comments may be submitted until COB Monday, February 11, 2013 and may be sent by any of three ways: 

1) by mail to 1331 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Suite 1150, Washington, D.C., 20425, 
2) emailed to publiccomments@usccr.gov, or 
3) faxed to (202) 376-1163

 

for further information or questions contact Panayiota Bertzikis, Executive Director, Military Rape Crisis Center at panayiota@stopmilitaryrape.org

Navy attempts culture change on sexual assaults

“”They do say they want to change, but I feel a lot of it is lip service until we see a higher prosecution rate, until we see more rapists sent to prison for rape,” said Panayiota Bertzikis, executive director of the Military Rape Crisis Center. “The bottom line is a felony has been committed and they have to start treating it as a felony.”

read full article: ABC News

 

 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012, marks the fifth observation of Military Sexual Trauma Awareness Day

Wednesday, May 30, 2012, marks the fifth observation of Military Sexual Trauma Awareness Day

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/30/1095847/-Military-Sexual-Trauma-An-Epidemic

Military Sexual Trauma Memorial Garden

Panayiota Bertzikis, United States Coast Guard

This is a post that is so difficult to write. This is a post that I wish that I did not have to write. I wish instead that I were standing watch on a 210’. I wish instead that I were working on my qualification to make it as an MST1. Instead I am writing from Scottsdale, Arizona on the eve on the 6th months anniversary of my brutal rape while serving in the United States Coast Guard.

Tomorrow the Military Rape Crisis Center in conjunction with the National Organization of Women, Phoenix/Scottsdale chapter would be unveiling the Military Sexual Trauma Memorial Garden. This first of its kind memorial would be dedicated to all survivors and departed victims of Military Sexual Trauma. I wish that such a memorial was not needed. I wish that women and men could serve their country without being sexually assaulted or raped.  I wish that my shipmates, my comrades, my fellow veterans do not have to suffer the way that I am.

I wish that one-day survivors of rape and sexual assault can report a rape and be believed by their command. I hope that they never know the feeling of being handed your discharge papers because they dared came forward with reporting rape.

I wish that I could say that things get better. I wish that I could say that the pain lessens. I wish that I could say that the nightmares and flashbacks go away. They don’t. Since my rape at Coast Guard Station Burlington, VT six years ago tomorrow the pain of betrayal, the pain of being beaten and raped by a man that I was willing to take a bullet; my shipmate, the pain is still there as much as it was the first day.

The pain won’t go away and for that I have dedicated my life to try to eliminate sexual violence in the United States Coast Guard and within the Department of Defense.  I don’t want my shipmates, my comrades, and my brothers and sisters-in-arms to suffer through in ways that I did. As founder and Director of the Military Rape Crisis Center I wish that such an organization did not exist. I wish that rape in the military were not an issue. Since it is I vow to make sure that I at least give my shipmates the support that is needed after an assault.

Throughout the six-years I have met many strong and brave men and women that also served their country only to find that the biggest enemy was from their fellow soldiers/shipmates. They understand the pain of betrayal. They understand the fear associated with watching the military set free their rapist. Some of these men and women I now consider my best friends, closer than even family. I wish that I had never met these men and women. I wish that they were never raped. I wish tomorrow that a Memorial wouldn’t be dedicated in their honor. I wish that such a Memorial was not needed.

I wish that I can say things improved within the United States Coast Guard and DoD. I wish that I can say that the Coast Guard and DoD are striving to eliminate a culture that allows rapes and later punish the survivor for being raped. I wish that I could say that 6 years later that progress is being made. Progress is not being made. Little, if any, improvement has been made within the military that actually benefit survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.

However, sometimes wishes do come true. I wished for my cries to be heard. It did. For that I am eternally grateful to Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-D), Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-D) and for every journalist that dared to touch on the topic of Military Sexual Trauma for listening to survivors and for believing us and in us. For that thank you so much. We all thank you. Thank you for being our voice.

With me I carry a photo of a shipmate of mine. A woman that I first met at basic training and ran into her again after we were both transferred to Coast Guard Boston. This woman at basic training was so full of life and happiness at basic training. When I met her again in Boston pain and sadness took over her. Like me, she too reported a sex crime and was transferred to Coast Guard Boston. She did not make it. At the age of 24 she passed away as a direct result of the crime done to her while serving in the U.S Coast Guard. Her perpetrator was never prosecuted. For her and the many other departed victims and survivors of Military Sexual Trauma, tomorrow on Military Sexual Trauma Awareness Day a memorial would be dedicated in our honor.

The Memorial Garden is in Garfield Garden Park (northwest corner of Garfield and 6th Street in Phoenix). Ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m on May 30, 2012.

Rape victims say military labels them ‘crazy’

CNN has interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard, who tell stories that follow a similar pattern — a sexual assault, a command dismissive of the allegations and a psychiatric discharge.

read full article here.

Introduction

It all started when a local newspaper published my rape story. I was called into James Freeman office to be told by James Freeman, Lt. Patricia Tutalo, Lt. Thomas Gwilliam and Commander Joseph Segalla to no longer speak to others about my rape. They were angry that I, an E-3 took it upon herself to inform the public that I was raped and that my command did absolutely NOTHING TO HELP ME. They were concern not about their lack of response to help a shipmate that was raped, they were concern not about the threats that I was receiving from my own shipmates but instead they were concern on how this would this look like for the Coast Guard reputation.  The next day I was handed a DD-214 and knew that I was given the liberty to speak.

The next few years I had the opportunity to share my story with members of the Congress, on national television and in several books including one that been taught in college history classes nationwide. I shared my story while on stage before 20,000 people and shared my story one-on-one with the new XO of the very unit that I reported my rape, in the very room. Each and every time I get to share my story I become stronger and know I am no longer that E-3 rape victim but a woman that survived something horrendous and lived to speak about it.

As I share my command’s response to my rape allegations, the civilian public jaws drop. How can a woman, in this day and age be treated so horrific and straight out backwards just cause she was raped? I have to remind them that what I went through while serving my country is nothing unique. It is happening to as many as one in three women in the military as well as many men. In the year 2011 right here in the United States of America rape survivors are still not being believed, being blamed for, losing their careers and at times murdered for reporting a sexual assault.

I know the pain of betrayal far exceed the physical pain of the assault itself. I know how it feels like to be treated like a criminal just for being a victim. I know how it feels like to lose your career while watching your perpetrator go unpunished. I know how it feels like to walk on base and hear “whore” or “liar” be thrown your way. I know that what I went through in 2006 has been going on for decades and it is still goes on today. I know that I do not want any more of my comrades, my vet-sisters, my shipmates to go through what I went through which is why I am sharing my story.

I am  inviting you all to do so as well. If you are a survivor, a family member, or a service member that witnessed abuse please share your story. Together, with the public knowledge of what is really happening in our military we can put an end to the truculent treatment of Military Sexual Trauma survivors.

To share your story visit: Be Heard

Panayiota

Coast Guard Station Burlington VT and Coast Guard Boston