Staff Sgt. Colleen Bushnell, USAF retired

By Staff Sgt. Colleen Bushnell, USAF retired

Just when her detractors were hoping for an apology, journalist Liz Trotta dished out more of the same rhetoric against women serving in the military.

In Trotta’s initial statements, aired on February 12th on Fox’s “America’s News Headquarters,” the reporter said women servicemembers should expect male servicemembers to rape them. Not surprisingly, this provoked outrage from veterans, and many of their supporters, such as the Vietnam Veterans of America.

On February 19th, Trotta’s belief that women should expect military men to rape them did not change, though she backpedaled slightly in her wording. She stated that combat zones are the “testosterone” driven frenzy of “basic instinct” that war brings. Additionally, she referenced what she considers the bigger picture – aspects of military family life that I experienced at some point as a U.S. Air Force public affairs specialist, wife, mother and military sexual assault survivor.

Ms. Trotta’s detractors have continued to call on her to apologize, and on Fox News to fire her. What is clear to many female military sexual trauma survivors is that Ms. Trotta’s attacks, at core, stem from her belief that women should not serve in the military at all.

In her closing remarks February 19th, she asked her audience to consider the words of former Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Barrow, who told Congress in 1991, “Women give life, sustain life, nurture life. They don’t take it.”

Did you really have to go there, Ms. Trotta? It is time for you, and others of your mindset, to join the rest of us in the year 2012 to recognize what women have been doing in the military for decades.

I stand proud of the honorable and dignified service I rendered to this nation. The hypocrisy of your statements confounds me.  As a pioneer woman journalist, the first to report from a war zone, you must fully understand the weight and breadth of endeavoring in a profession that was once denied you based solely on your gender. In my own career, I realized not too long after I immersed myself in the military profession that even after decades of integrated service, military women are still pioneering.

Before I was raped, and later sexually assaulted, I intended to continue in my specialty for 20 years to retirement. But I wasn’t able to get the help I needed. I truly believe that with the right resources, I could have overcome the problems after my assaults. The truth is, the military is behind in dealing with the criminal acts of sexual predators. Department of Defense policy actually promotes harboring these criminals in my opinion.

I was medically retired in 2006, when errant personality disorder was diagnosed. When my commanding officer sexually assaulted me in a hotel room, after a social hour, at a conference in San Antonio, Texas, I reported the assault to my chain of command the next day. Unfortunately, the day after my report my assailant died at home due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

My boss’s death ended a two-year ordeal during which I was also harassed and later raped by a male, senior-civilian staff member. When my commanding officer assaulted me, it was a tipping point.

At the time of my rape, and then assault, I was a newly divorced mom to two boys, ages three and five. Serving in the military as a single parent was not ideal. I decided that the best way to handle the challenges I faced as a single parent and provider was to continue on in what was a very successful enlisted career, and a stable lifestyle for my sons. We were fortunate that their grandma lived an hour away from our duty station.

The domino effect of these tragedies is still happening for me. As a result of concerns over Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I lost custody of my children to their paternal grandparents this year. July will be the two-year anniversary of the last time I spoke to the boys.

With these circumstances as my truths, Ms. Trotta, I hear you. However, it is ludicrous to revisit an argument decided on more than thirty-years ago, beginning with the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948, which granted women permanent status in the regular, and reserve forces of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

Women are here to stay. It is time for you to get with the program. Women constitute about fifteen percent of the military’s end strength. Some say our work is responsible for avoiding the need for the draft.

But moreover, throughout history, most military sexual assault victims have been men. Of the military sexual assault victims the Veterans Administration is currently treating, the VA reports almost half are male.

If only women’s military service was simply a discussion about hand-to-hand combat, on clearly delineated front lines, we’d have a simpler solution.

Ms. Trotta, let’s establish a new starting point, containing real solutions for the problems affecting military readiness today. It is clear you do not regret minimizing women’s contributions to the military, in either peacetime or war time. It is time we work diligently for solutions to eliminate any risks to the safety, health and welfare of our troops that you profess your loyalty to, Liz.  All of them, today – in a way that reflects modern reality.