Military Women Thankful as SWAN Combats Sexual Abuse

Military Women Thankful as SWAN Combats Sexual Abuse

by Jamie J. Hagen

The world may be concentrating on General Petraeus’ dalliance. But the real story of sexual misbehavior in the military is far broader, and far more serious and damaging to so many of our women and men who serve. SWAN, the Service Women’s Action Network, is one organization that knows the real scenario. It advocates for the 2.5 million women who make up 15 per cent of the United States military. 

With the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) more than a year ago, SWAN is now better able to provide services with more transparency. But it still has a lot of work to do.

SWAN’s efforts also include policy development, litigation and direct services. Earlier this year, in Washington, D.C., the organization hosted Truth and Justice: The 2012 Summit on Sexual Violencecovered by Outserve Magazine. Outserve-SLDN is a gay rights group supporting LGBT troops. Violence against women in the military and harassment of LGBTQ women, and men are connected, in that both actions arise from the same dangerous, irrational hatred of difference. 

“This was the first mass globalization for sexual assault survivors on Capitol Hill,” said Katy Otto, a spokesperson for SWAN. “This is significant because there have been a lot of stories in the press, especially about sexual assault in the military, but those stories have not included LGBT survivors. The summit provided opportunities to get those voices out to the media.”

Anu Ghagwaiti, executive director of SWAN, recently lauded the appointment of Outserve-SLDN’s new executive director, transgender veteran Allyson Robinson. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ may have happened a year ago, but we still have a military that treats LGB service members and their families like second-class citizens, and bars transgender people from serving at all.”

  This week the Air Force imposed what it calls a “wingman policy” requiring its trainees at the Lackland base in San Antonio, Texas, to be with at least one classmate at all times. The move comes in response to an Air Training and Command investigation that identified 23 instructors on the base who had allegedly raped, sexually harassed or had “unprofessional relationships” with 48 trainees.

Editor’s Note: In the upcoming January 2013 issue of On the Issues Magazine, Jamie J. Hagen will report on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among women military veterans.  As part of that report, she will describe how the Service Women’s Action Network, known as SWAN and founded in 2007, offers support to women who suffer from PTSD.

Jamie J. Hagen is a New York City-based writer and research consultant, with a M.A. from CUNY Brooklyn College in Political Science, where she studied political theory. Hagen has written on feminism and women, peace and security and LGBTQ politics for publications such as Autostraddle and the Dart Society blog.