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“Justice Denied” Will Look at Sexual Assault and Rape Against Men in the Military

 

Movie poster.

Movie poster.

“Justice Denied,” a documentary that looks at the frequently unreported crimes of sexual assault and rape against males in the U.S. armed forces, will premiere next month at a film festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

For social worker Geri Lynn Weinstein-Matthews and Michael Matthews, her husband of 27 years, bringing “Justice Denied” to the big screen is a very personal project.

When Michael was a 19-year-old airman in the United States Air Force, he was knocked unconscious and gang raped. Michael kept that secret for 30 years and it was psychologically damaging.

He suffered from depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma and attempted suicide six times.

Geri Lynn, who is the producer and co-director of the film along with director and co-producer Michael Miller, said they hope the film put a bigger focus on the problem of male sexual assault and rape. They also want the documentary to spur legislation and regulatory changes to make it easier to prosecute perpetrators of such crimes.

“We want people to see this as a human rights issue,” Geri Lynn Weinstein-Matthews, MSW, LICSW, said.

You can watch a trailer of “Justice Denied” at the film’s official website. The movie will premiere June 8 at the Albuquerque Film and Media Experience in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the KiMo Theatre at 6:30 p.m.

The Defense Department in May said the number of sexual assaults grew by more than 30 percent in the last two years. More than 26,000 troops reported an instance of “unwanted sexual contact,” up from 19,000 in 2010.

There were also 3,374 reported sex crimes in the military in fiscal 2012, a six percent increase over the previous year.

The actual number of sexual assaults is underreported because servicemen are reluctant to talk about  the crime out of fear they will be accused of lying, Weinstein-Matthews said.

Michael Matthews around the time the sexual assault occurred. Photo courtesy of Michael Matthews.

Michael Matthews around the time the sexual assault occurred. Photo courtesy of Michael Matthews.

Commanding officers also decide whether a case will be investigated, although legislation has been introduced to let independent investigators and lawyers decide whether a case is prosecuted.

Weinstein-Matthews supports the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (H.R 1593),  or STOP Act, from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). That legislation would create a Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office manned by civilian and military personnel to investigate such crimes.

Men also are often under the misconception that they should not be victims of sexual assault or rape, Weinstein-Matthews said. This makes it even less likely males will report being a victim of such a crime, especially in the more macho military environment, she said.

“We have heard that some men who have been raped, when reporting, will claim that they have posttraumatic stress disorder rather than report a sexual assault or rape due to shame and fear of reprisal,” Weinstein-Matthews said.

“If sexual predators go unpunished or have their sentences revoked or lessened and allowed to stay in the ranks and then rise up in the ranks that just continues to permeate this problem in the military system, where predators flourish and are once again in control,” she said. “And when these predators leave the armed forces they go back out into the communities and continue this perp behavior.”

“Rape and sexual assault are not about sex.. it’s about power and control,” Weinstein-Matthews said.

Miller says 13 male sexual assault survivors from around the nation and four mental health professionals, including social workers, are featured in “Justice Denied.”

Instead of peppering the male sexual assault victims with questions Miller, a former journalist, turned on the camera and microphone and asked the men to relax and tell their stories in their own way.

“Almost all of them were nervous and tight but as they got into their story there were able to get free in the telling and relax,” Miller said. “Several of them said it was so good to be able to tell the story – they felt like it was therapy.”

After the film screens at the Albuquerque Film and Media Experience Miller and Weinstein-Matthews said they will try to find a distributor for the film. If no distributor can be found they will  distribute the film themselves, making it available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

“Right now we are in the infancy stages of fostering change within a closed system regarding the Person in Their Environment (PIE) and military sexual trauma,” Weinstein-Matthews said. “Our hope is to continue bringing this malignancy to the forefront for policy change and public awareness.”

Social workers help people recover from sexual assaults. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Family Safety – Your Options: Teens and Rape web page. Social workers also help members of the armed forces and their families overcome life’s challenges. Read more at the “Help Starts Here” Veterans Affairs consumer website. And you can learn more about how social workers support veterans and military families at this NASW website.

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  1. In the Viper Pit: Male Rape and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) « The Left Hand of Feminism
  2. 81 Percent of Military Sexual Assaults Against Men Go Unreported | Debbie's Story

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