So far, I have only conducted a small number of interviews for the study entitled, “Moral Injury in Women Veterans: A Grounded Theory,” but some common themes are quickly emerging. The first is, that all of the women were raped by someone in a position of authority over them, like their commanders. Some were raped multiple times or forced into a sex ring. This is betrayal on an ultimate level.
These things happened to them when they first entered the military, so they had no rank or capacity to resist. In basic training, you are taught to keep your mouth shut and do what you are told. Even though the military teaches people to report these things, it is unrealistic to ask a scared, brand new recruit to report something so devastating and shameful as being raped by a superior officer or sergeant.
Hazing and bullying was also a common theme. Women were subjected to cruel harassment and emotional torture. This bullying included punching, name calling, isolation, and neglect of all kinds from their supervisors and fellow service members. These are the people who were supposed to watch out for them, mentor and support them. Instead, they abused the people who were entrusted to their care. Women put up with this because they wanted to serve their country and fulfill their own dreams. Also, they did not feel that there was anyone they could go to for help.
The effects of their moral injuries have been devastating. Even now, years later, women still feel isolated, emotionally crippled, and distrustful. Some struggle to maintain intimate relationships, and others experience extreme emotional swings. For their troubles, women received administrative or medical discharges, rather than honorable ones. They joined to serve their country and got shit on by organizations that claim to be the bastion of integrity, courage, and moral strength.
These and other stories need to be told. My team is working hard to capture the realities of military women’s lives and use those stories to demand change. We need more women to come forward. Women experience many things in the military that feel like a violation of their personal values. You do not need to have been raped to qualify for this study. If you were a witness to, a participant in, or the target of any activities by military personnel that created inner conflict or violated your personal moral values, you could qualify for this study. Click this link to get more information and find out how to volunteer: Moral Injury Study.