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Inside the Military Rape Cult

On One Billion Rising, a day to stop rape and violence against women, Sabrina Rubin Erdely discusses her Rolling Stone report on a tragic tale of sexual assault in the military.

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The military is also a very closed society. Once a rape victim has reported an attack, or wants to see a doctor, everyone knows. There is a total lack of privacy, because everyone is on such a tight, regimented schedule, your absence would immediately be noticed.

In the civilian world, if you were raped, you could go to the hospital, see a doctor, report the crime, and theoretically you might just go back to your office, and your coworkers would be none the wiser. The military is a very gossipy place. Everyone knows your business, and they might start to shun or ostracize you, which is what happened to Petty Officer Rebecca Blumer, the subject of my piece. It became dangerous to be seen as her friend.  In civilian life, if you felt ostracized, you might quit your job, leave the city. But in the military, if you leave you would be AWOL, and subject to court martial. So you are totally trapped.

JA: It seemed that the deeper tragedy of what happened to Rebecca Blumer was her total betrayal by the military.

SRE: Rebecca had a lot of faith in the military – she truly believed they had her best interests at heart. She was completely devoted to the Navy.

The military is not just your job, it is your world. It’s your friends, your family and your structure. In joining, you have agreed to lay your life on the line, so you have to have that level of trust in the organization. That is the level of trust Rebecca had in it. It gave her stability; she was totally invested in it. She was a 23-year-old Navy intelligence analyst, and she thought she had a bright future ahead of her. She was really good at what she did.

JA: So, it seems all the more strange that her superiors just did not believe her when she said she had been roofied and raped. She had a perfect unblemished record of service. But when she came to after the rape, in a sort of semi-conscious state, she tried to drive somewhere, either back to base or to get help, and was arrested for D.U.I. They did not get her treatment for her injuries, which were considerable. They even asked if she might have inflicted them on herself.

SRE: It is unclear how much investigation was done. She had an anal fissure. Her abdomen hurt. There was physical evidence. There was the fact that she blacked out. Her superiors were skeptical though, and more intent on punishing her for D.U.I. And once that decision was made, it was risky to stand up for her. Nobody wants to be a pariah.

JA: They did not get her any medical help for a long time, and when they did, they did not ask for a rape kit, just for her blood to be tested for the presence of a date-rape drug.

SRE: In Rebecca’s case, it was 18 hours after she had taken the shot of Jagermeister sent to her by these Army guys in the bar which she realizes must have been what drugged her. Within a few minutes she reacted. Her head, legs, arms felt heavy -- and she felt dizzy, but not drunk exactly. The noises in the bar rose up around her in a cacophony.

That was the last thing she remembered before waking up in a jail cell, naked, wet from being hosed down because she was apparently screaming for a doctor, and in a lot of pain, including severe rug burns on her buttocks and lower back. By the time they tested her urine 18 hours later, there was no trace of the drug. Date-rape drugs can be metabolized very quickly. All she’d had to drink that night was two beers and that fateful shot.

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