repost from feministing.com
Melissa, United States Air Force
I am writing regarding an incident on the Open Guard USCG Facebook group page on July 26, 2012. A Coast Guard reserve member within the LGB community felt safe enough with Open Guard USCG to come out as a rape survivor. She expressed how she felt her rape was mishandled because of her sexual orientation. What followed was several other women both Active Duty and Veterans stated that they too been victims of sexual violence while serving in the US Coast Guard. The thread became an educational, supportive and healing medium for many within the group. Sadly it was all put to an end after Mark Dietrich, a Coast Guard officer and a moderator for Open Guard USCG, felt that suffering from rape because of one’s sexual orientation is “off topic”.
A Coast Guard member responded by saying, “Thank again for reminding me that I have no place in the Coast Guard even in the LGBT Open Guard” and a Coast Guard veteran also responded by saying, “I thought this group was to support each other as shipmates to improve the Coast Guard for future generations?” These two comments were determined to be criticizing the Coast Guard and negative so therefore every woman that reported that they been sexually abused because of her sexual orientation was barred from participating in Open Guard USCG. This is super concerning, particularly coming from a gay-oriented group that not too long ago had suffered the same oppression that rape survivors today are suffering: to keep it to your self. The Military Rape Crisis Center a nationwide advocacy and support group for Military Sexual Assault survivors estimates that 92% of all that report a sex crime in the Coast Guard are kicked out of service. Rape has become the new DADT.
While we have rightfully earned our rights to celebrate our accomplishments for repealing DADT, the fight is not over. We have to continue working on getting equality until all service members feel safe to open up to who they truly are. Sadly, homophobia is still very present in the United States Coast Guard and these Coast Guard members are at times using sexual violence as their weapon of choice to promote their hateful agenda. While the United States Coast Guard is not required like the four other branches of service to release their sexual assault data, the Military Rape Crisis Center reports that a disproportion numbers of Coast Guard Active Duty and Reserve members are seeking services through them. Some of these survivors are members of the LGB community that feel that their sexual orientation were the reason they have been victimized or that the investigation focus was primarily on their sexual orientation and not the felony that took place.
I am a survivor of sexual assault while serving in the United States Armed Forces. My rapist, an O-6, knew that he was able to get away with raping me because I am a lesbian. He was right. He was never prosecuted despite enough forensic evidence that shows a rape has been committed. Corrective rape in his eyes was the right thing to do for his God. He saw nothing wrong with what he did. He is still serving. I lost my very promising career.
As a member of several Active Duty, Veterans and civilians group for the LGBTQIA community, Open Guard USCG is the only group that I am aware of that is not actively working to eliminate sexual violence within members of this community. While I do believe that Open Guard USCG or a similar organization might be viewed as helpful to connect LGB members service wide Open Guard USCG’s blatant backwardness, hypocrisy and systemic silent the victim rape culture is something that cannot be overlooked. I welcome an open dialogue on this important issue.
Until Open Guard USCG is open to diversity and is inclusive of all members of the United States Coast Guard, including those that been victims of sexual assault or rape, I recommend that members of the United States Coast Guard think twice before associating themselves with Open Guard and it board members. I also request the leadership within the United States Coast Guard stop the Coast Guard’s affiliation with the group, including listing them as a resource on uscg.mil diversity page, until Open Guard is open to discuss the sexual assault and rape epidemic in the United States Coast Guard and how it affects members of the LGB community.
Open Guard’s mission statements states: “Open Guard is a Coast Guard centric support group for gay, lesbian and bisexual Coast Guard members, active duty and retired, and their families and friends” and I believe that this should include those that feel that they have been retaliated by use of sexual violence for coming out.
Resources for military rape survivors: