Minnesota Feminists Speak Out!

The unofficial blog of Minnesota NOW


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I should have been in a theater on Monday night

On Monday night I should have been in a theater watching Invisible War with 116 people who want to fix a broken military judicial system that enables the continuation of pervasive sexual assault. Sadly, MN NOW and our co-sponsors fell 50 people short of the required 117 tickets sold to screen Invisible War.

I first saw Invisible War a couple years ago when Gender Justice organized a screening, and I was so disappointed in how few people showed up. They did nothing wrong in how they marketed the screening. There was no other event that any of us knew about that was drawing away any possible audience. They even lined up an amazing panel of experts to discuss the film and answer questions. To this day, I don’t know why more people didn’t show up, but I was determined to screen it again. But once again, we didn’t get the turnout that the movie deserved. We didn’t get the turnout that the survivors deserve.

So why? Maybe our potential audience was distracted because they were busy with Get out the Vote efforts. The election was on November 4, and our deadline to sell 117 tickets was just three days later on November 7. Maybe, maybe not. I have a few other thoughts about why people aren’t showing up to see this important movie.

A friend tells me that it’s available on Netflix, so why would someone pay for a ticket to see it? I’m glad that it’s on Netflix and hopefully reaching a wide audience, but I see a definite value in screening it for a group. When I saw it, I received the benefit of expert panelists who could address questions from the audience. I attended the movie with a friend who had survived sexual violence in the military, and her insights were invaluable. Additionally, this movie will challenge your heart and soul. It is not easy to watch. I would recommend that you have someone to emotionally support you after watching it.

At my social media seminar today, the organizer pulled up a meme of a baby with a scrunched up face. All of the attendees giggled, and he made the point that he chose that image because all of us in the room had some connection to the image (one pregnant lady and two doting aunties in the room), and that is why it appealed to us. The point of the lesson was that people respond to familiar and appealing images. Perhaps we don’t relate to the experience of the woman soldier on the promotional materials and so we feel somewhat removed from their lives.

I hope that the people who read this will share your thoughts about why people didn’t show up for the viewing, because we are not deterred. We will find a way to screen the movie, because the message is too important not to share.

The isolation that any rape survivor feels is multiplied times ten when it happens in the military. The process of military justice is not conducive to justice for survivors at all. Imagine if your boss raped you, and he was your only means of obtaining justice. Imagine being stationed in the middle of nowhere, and having to work alongside your rapist(s) day after day with no independent venue for justice.

This is why it is important for us to show up in droves to view Invisible War, even if we don’t serve in the military.

Here are some of the truths shared in Invisible War:

“Service members must report rape to their commanders. However, if their commanders take action and prove that rape occurred, they also prove a failure of their own leadership.”- Brian Lewis, who was 20 years old when he was raped while in the Navy.

14 percent of female veterans report experiences of gang rape.

About 40 percent of victims in one study indicated that the perpetrator was their ranking officer.

One-third of victims indicate that the perpetrator was a ranking officer’s friend.

“I was repeatedly drugged and raped by several of my superior officers over a nine-month period. …There was no one I could turn to because, like so many victims of sexual assault in the military, my attackers were in my chain of command. So I kept my mouth shut.” – Testimony of Trina McDonald, who was 18 when she was stationed in Alaska and assaulted.

62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault experienced retaliation.

Heath X reported that he was gang raped, told he was lying, threatened, bullied, assaulted again and tried to commit suicide all during his first month in the service. He left, became homeless, was incarcerated and was diagnosed as suffering “intense psychological pain.” He was taken to a naval jail, and then returned to his post where he had to serve with the “gang of molesters” that had attacked him before. He faced court-martial or dishonorable discharge. He was denied benefits because he was dishonorably discharged. He was 18.

90 percent of survivors of sexual assault in the military are involuntarily discharged.

80 percent of perpetrators and those accused are discharged with honor.

Kori Cioca was serving in the US Coast Guard when she was raped by a commanding officer. He also broke her jaw, leaving her with lifelong pain and serious depression. When she attempted to bring him to justice, she was informed by her commanding officer that she’d be court martial as a liar. The commanding officer admitted that an assault happened, but said it didn’t include rape. As such, he was only restricted to his base for 30 days without pay for a short time.

By the terms of the current military legal code of justice system a general’s decision to overturn a jury verdict is the final word.

If you find these truths to be disturbing, I encourage you to see and hear them directly from the survivors’ mouths. MN NOW will continue our efforts to screen this movie again in the Twin Cities, with your help.

~Beth Johnson, MN NOW President

This is dedicated to my dear friend, who passed away last year from injuries related to a serious drinking problem. She drank to numb the memory of the rape committed by her training officer while she was serving our country.

~The chances of a female veteran developing PTSD are nine times more likely if she has been sexually assaulted.

~Military victims of violent assault or rape are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide than service members and veterans who have not experienced sexual assault and rape.


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Let’s Talk About Sexual Violence in the Military

The American military is an institution founded in patriotism and shrouded in the mystique of brotherhood and love of country. I’m grateful for the important and life-threatening responsibilities that the men and women of our military undertake on a daily basis. I also know that it’s something I could never do. The aim of this post is not to question the bravery of those who serve our country but to express my anger with how the U.S. military handles instances of sexual assault.

I read an alarming statistic the other day in my research about sexual assault in the military — a female soldier is more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. Also, women make up 15% of armed forces, but 47% of sexual assault cases. Although women are ‘allowed’ to serve in the military along side men, in terms of their own bodily autonomy they are certainly not equal.

Soldiers — both men and women — who report sexual assault are subjected to lifelong consequences that affect their physical and emotional wellbeing as well as their career. Ninety percent of sexual assault survivors in the armed forces are involuntarily discharged. The perpetrators of these crimes aren’t usually punished in any way. In fact, 80% of those accused are actually discharged with honor.

I recently rediscovered an article in Huffington Post that lists 50 powerful and eye opening statistics about sexual assault in the military — and links to the original articles and research for your reference. I found that reading these statistics and other studies and watching “The Invisible War,” has made me realize how frequently sexual assault occurs in the military and that it’s a huge problem we have yet to solve.

We’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has served in the armed forces about their experiences with sexual assault — whether it was something you witnessed, experienced, or came across while you were serving. If you have something to contribute, please sound off in the comments or Tweet to us at @Minnesota_NOW using the hashtag #NotInvisible.

We are co-sponsoring a screening of the Invisible War on November 17th at St. Anthony Main Theater, and hosting a discussion with a panel of experts after our screening. If you haven’t seen The Invisible War, or even if you have, I highly suggest you make the time to watch it with us — we need folks from all perspectives to truly create a well-rounded discussion.

Get your tickets here!


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We’re disappointed with Minnesotans United PAC

Minnesota NOW and the Pro-Choice community as a whole contributed significant resources to the fight for marriage equality here in Minnesota. That is why we at Minnesota NOW were very disappointed to hear that the Minnesotans United PAC screens their candidates focused singularly on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples and that they will be providing funding to several legislators who have a history of voting for anti-choice legislation. We were told the Minnesotans United PAC will raise and spend resources to support legislators who voted for same-sex marriage – they have no other screens and are aware this model won’t work for all donors. We are truly saddened that the Minnesotans United PAC does not have our back when we need them. We are not equal until we are ALL equal.

We encourage you to direct your financial support to the Minnesota NOW PAC which screens candidates on all of our six core issues:  LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, economic justice, racial equality, constitutional equality and freedom from violence. This will ensure your money is supporting a candidate that acts on all of your values, not just one.

The following 11 legislators are being made a priority by the Minnesotans United PAC and had a less than 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota last session:

Representative Joe Radinovich (DFL)

of Crosby, Minnesota – District 10B

 Representative Tim Faust (DFL)

of Hinckley, Minnesota – District 11B

Representative Roger Erickson (DFL)

of Baudette, Minnesota – District 2B

Representative John Ward (DFL)

of Brainerd, MN – District 10A

Representative Pat Garofalo (R)


of Farmington, MN – District 58B

Representative Paul Marquart (DFL)


of Dilworth, MN – District 4B

Representative Jenifer Loon (R)


of Eden Prairie, MN – District 48B

Representative Jay McNamar (DFL) 


of Elbow Lake, MN – District 12A

Senator Branden Petersen (R)


of Andover, MN – District 35.

Representative Andrea Kieffer (R)

of Woodbury, MN – District 53B

 Representative David FitzSimmons (R)


of Albertville, MN – District 30B

Again, we urge you to support a PAC who truly has your back. Donate to the MN NOW PAC here.


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What’s at stake when women’s bodies are “evidence”

***Trigger warning for sexual assault, victim blaming***

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Barbara Kruger created this famous poster for a women’s rights march on Washington in 1989.  That the message remains chillingly relevant is a testament both to Kruger’s talent and to the continuous, relentless attacks on women’s bodily autonomy….and just when you think you can’t be MORE shocked, MORE disgusted, or MORE outraged, you are.

A Minnesota NOW friend who wishes to remain anonymous wrote us this powerful account of her reaction to the news that a New Mexico legislator would criminalize abortions after rape on the grounds that it would be “tampering with evidence.”

No, your eyes didn’t just explode–that’s actually what Rep. Cathrynn Brown suggested in a bill she introduced on January 24.

From our friend:

At age 17 I was raped by a young man I knew, at age 24 I was raped by two men I knew.  At age 17 I had an abortion, at age 24 I was escaping a violent marriage. Unfortunately I had a miscarriage 5 months later in my parent’s bathroom. I had no idea I was pregnant, and was told she probably died at 3 months because of the beatings I took from my ex-husband.

A bill has been introduced that rape victims carry their rapists’ child as evidence.

If I had to carry my rapist’s child (my ex-husband would not have been named a rapist) his friend may have…. what would I have told my son, 18 months old.  What would I have told him about his sibling especially if it wasn’t his father’s? What would I have told my son about his sibling while I went to court? What would I have told my son about his sibling if my rapist wanted joint custody and his father didn’t? What would happen when my husband adopts my son, but isn’t allowed to adopt my rapist’s child because a rapist has more rights than my husband?

For the men introducing these bills on behalf of the religious organizations that supported you and the other pro-life organizations that endorsed you, I know you have been asked what if this happened to your daughter. Well that doesn’t matter because all of you can afford the back room abortions, while people like me, would have had to rely on a shop vac, coat hanger, or many other life threatening devices.

If I had to give my rights to my rapists, I tell you right now, I would have dropped my son off at my parents and drove out to the country and shot myself in the head. I would not have put my parents and my son through the blind, bogus, bigoted, treatment, which you decided to enact.

Rep. Brown has since attempted to clarify that the bill would charge the rapist with a third-degree felony for evidence tampering, not the impregnated rape victim herself, though this flip-flopping most likely reflects her embarrassment at being in the middle of a national news story, not a serious change of heart.

The War on Women is real.  Your body is a battleground.  We can’t stop fighting.

TAKE ACTION!

Contact Rep. Cathrynn Brown via the New Mexico state legislature (she has removed her direct contact information–gee, I wonder why?!): http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/contactus.aspx

Sign a petition demanding her resignation here: http://signon.org/sign/cathrynn-brown-should.fb23?source=c.fb&r_by=6899454

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