Sexual Assault at Work - The Warrior's Journey®
Helplessness

Sexual Assault at Work

Author: Brendon O'Dowd, USAF (Ret.)

090701-F-0704P-040. Photo by US Air Force is licensed under CC By 2.0

It is a man’s world.  At least that is what many believe about the military.  As a woman, you may struggle to find your place and it seems the only options are accepting the culture by doing anything to fit in or isolating yourself with toughness and coldness.

Vulnerability & Boundaries

Tech. Sgt. Daniel Kilbride, an aerospace physiology technician with the 779th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, briefs a class before the flight in the altitude chamber at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Sep. 1, 2009. The altitude chamber is a training requirement for all personnel on flying status that ensures they can recognize the symptoms of hypoxia and hypobaria. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Renae L. Kleckner)

It feels as if vulnerability is sure to be your downfall.  Yet the military environment demands vulnerability with one another.  Whether it is grueling physical challenges that push us past our limits or times of loneliness when we are away from family and friends, we develop a bond with our unit (esprit de corps).  And this bond is critical to our very survival on the battlefield.

Regrettably some people can misinterpret this bond.  They can take it as a blank check to push boundaries, sometimes leading to sexual harassment or sexual assault.  What can you do about it?

If you are a victim, realize that this traumatic event will take a toll on you and your loved ones.  It isn’t fair or right, but it is an ugly reality of living in a broken world.  Many websites will tell you that the damage from sexual assault and harassment effect you physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  Many of these websites don’t tell you about the spiritual damage.

Aftershock

Recently Rachael Denhollander made national news by being the first woman to go public with sexual assault allegations about Larry Nassar, a doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.  Her brave and courageous step left her vulnerable to attack while also opening old wounds, but her faith kept her grounded.

Denhollander admits it wasn’t easy “learning to trust in God’s justice and sovereignty and His knowledge of what happened, even when I didn’t have the answers.”  She goes on to say that she even drew Venn Diagrams to help her with the reconciliation process as “a visual reminder to me that whatever I didn’t understand couldn’t contradict what I did know was true. And so I held to what I knew was true when I couldn’t understand the rest of it” (Dean, 2018).

Rachael is not alone in feeling this way.  In the Bible, a woman named Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon.  The story found in 2 Samuel 13 is intense with its description of the painful ordeal and the underlying emotions.  Tamar tried to dissuade her brother, “however, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her” (verse 14).

What the Bible says next shows how deep and ugly sexual assault can be.  “Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her” (verse 15).

The aftershocks of this rape impacted a family with chaos and violence that lasted for years.

Hope & Healing

The trauma of sexual assault and the burden of carrying it with you can naturally lead you to avoid the issue.  Speaking up is never easy and when you do speak up, there is no guarantee everyone will support you or, sadly, even believe you.  But this kind of attack is unjustifiable. As a Military member you are already a hero. You reflect a will to fight for what is right and to never back down regardless of the cost.

First

So, fight your tendency to keep this crime hidden.  You need to overcome the pressure to be quiet and report the abuse to the authorities or someone you trust because it will most likely happen again.  But please don’t fight this tendency and struggle alone.  You will need an advocate at your side to help you walk through this dark valley.  Even if someone does not initially believe you, you must be willing to try again.

Second

Fight for the healing of your soul.  Believe that the spiritual damage can be healed, even without all the answers.  Praying through the Psalms is an excellent way to give voice to your pain and trauma.  It is also a place to be reminded that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Also, immerse yourself in God’s Word because “pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).  Do an internet search for all the times “heal, healed, healing” are found in the Bible and meditate upon them over a few months.

Ultimately, you need to remember that healing is guaranteed because, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

Third

Fight for justice God’s way.  This justice may not and probably will not be done on your timeline.  Paul instructed the assaulted and persecuted church in Rome with these words: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

God is not blind to the abuse and trusting Him for your future may be the toughest thing you have to do.  Rachel Denhollander fought with the gospel in her address to Dr. Nassar in court with these words: “Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing.  And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you” (Dean, 2018).

Offering her abuser the hope of the gospel helped Rachel fight with the highest form of justice.

Reflection

Call on God today for strength and courage to walk through this dark valley, because He promises to be with you.  And don’t walk this road alone.  Seek out help from a trusted Christian Counselor, Pastor, or Chaplain.


Dean, Jamie. (2018, March 17). A time to speak. World. Retrieved from https://world.wng.org/2018/03/a_time_to_speak

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