Husband’s Long-Kept Secret Prompts Social Worker to Make Film
Michael Matthews suffered from depression for years and had attempted suicide five times before he went to counseling at the Veterans Administration to try to uncover the source of his turmoil.
His wife, medical and psychiatric social worker Geri Lynn Weinstein Matthews, had worked with traumatized firefighters in New York City in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. But even she was surprised by what her husband of 26 years revealed after a therapy session.
Soon after enlisting in the Air Force at age 19 Michael Matthews had been knocked unconscious by other male servicemen, raped and sodomized. And he had kept that secret for 30 years.
“I was trying to go through every scenario except for what it was,” Geri Lynn. “We sat on the bed and he cried. And I said, ‘Whatever it is you are getting help with the VA and whatever it is we will work it out.”
Geri Lynn, who is a National Association of Social Workers member, encouraged Michael to help other men who had undergone similar trauma. By networking on Facebook and in other places she was able to get an appearance for her husband in the award-winning 2012 documentary “Invisible War,” which is mostly about the rape of female soldiers.
Now the Matthews, who are from New York City but live in Albuquerque, N.M., have teamed up with filmmaker Michael Miller to make “Justice Denied,” a documentary solely about Military Sexual Trauma (MST) among male soldiers. Geri Lynn is executive producer of the project.
“I want men to find their voice,” Michael Matthews said. “That is what this movie is all about.”
Sexual assaults and rape in the Armed Services are more common than you think. In 2011 there were 19,000 reported rapes of soldiers by other soldiers, according to the Department of Defense. Less than one percent of the alleged rapists are convicted of the crime.
However, what is less known is that many of these assaults are male-on-male, said Geri Lyn, MSW, LICSW.
Many male and female soldiers who are raped keep the incidents secret in fear they will blamed for the incident. Commanding officers also decide whether a rape will be investigated, Michael Matthews said.
If a commanding officer decides a service member lied about an attack that soldier could face a court martial for perjury and get booted out of the military, he said.
“The devastation in my life was pretty severe,” he said. “I didn’t realize what was causing all my problems. I went 30 years without telling a single soul.”
The Matthews and Miller have posted an excerpt of “Justice Denied” on indiegogo.com, a website that lets organizations raise money for various causes, including documentary films. As of May 1 the film had only raised $250, well short of the $28,000 the filmmakers say they need to complete the project.
To visit their fundraising page and watch the trailer click here.
Miller said he plans to interview about half a dozen other male MST victims as well as experts in the field.
Once done Miller said he hopes the movie will educate others about this mostly hidden problem, encourage more soldiers who experienced MST to come forward and get help, and rally support around legislation to address this issue.
For instance, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill that would require the military to create a tribunal of military and civilian specialists to investigate and if needed prosecute reports of MST. The tribunal would take the decision away from commanding officers who may be biased against the victim.
To read more about Speier’s legislation click here.
“Hopefully the victim will be before a group of people and it will be more equitable and fair,” Geri Lynn said.
Social workers often help soldiers overcome mental illnesses and other challenges. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Veterans Affairs website by clicking here.| Leave A Comment