Rape is not just a nightmare for military women. Of the estimated 19,000 reported sexual assaults and rapes in the armed forces last year, the majority were actually committed against men. Men are assaulted at a rate 1% versus 4.4% of women, but that still translates to thousands of attaches against recruits and officers. This is a Silent Epidemic! It is not accepted in our culture that this happens to men, so they are far more ashamed and embarrassed and far less likely to talk about their experiences with their health care providers or even their loved ones.
Mike Matthews and his wife, Geri Lynn, are on a mission to change all that. They have teamed up with filmmaker Michael Miller on “Justice Denied,” a documentary about sexual assaults against military men. Mike Matthews was raped in 1974 at Whiteman Air Force Base, a year out of high school. Three servicemen were lying in wait in the dark and struck him from behind. He was knocked unconscious, beaten up and sodomized. Afraid he would be kicked out if he reported the incident to his superiors, Matthews, like most victims of military sexual trauma, suffered in silence for his 20 year career as a communications specialist and electrician.
Mike lived with this dirty secret for nearly 30 years, before telling my wife and going for counseling. He spent years with this pent-up rage, severe depression, tried to commit suicide several times, and had two failed marriages. The media have mostly focused on sexual crimes against women, but abuse in the military is not a gender issue but a human rights issue. It’s rampant and nobody knows about it. Our government has to change the laws to make the perpetrators and commanders accountable.