A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives is a feature film that sheds light on the serious problem the military has with sexual assault and rape that affects millions of men and women, their families and communities.
With the #Metoo and #TimesUp movements and many celebrities, activists, and politicians bringing more awareness to these issues, the military still does not get enough attention.
• According to the Department of Defense, it’s estimated that 22 American military veterans die by suicide every day. More veterans die from suicide than they do in combat.
• The Pentagon has revealed that there were around 14,900 sexual assaults in the US military in 2016.
• Since 1991 military leaders have been stating that there will be “zero tolerance” of sexual assault, however, these stats clearly point out that the military is not living up to what they profess.
• According to U.S. military facts women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by the enemy in Iraq or Afghanistan.
• More than half of the victims of rape are men due to the fact that there are more men in general. According to the Pentagon 38 military men are sexually assaulted or raped every single day.
• Pentagon estimates that one in three servicewomen are sexually assaulted -- twice the civilian rate.
• Eighty (80%) percent of men and women don’t report being raped due to the pressure or fear of being singled out, shunned, losing their rank, negative responses from their unit or superior officers, retaliation, even acts of violence.
• Only one in 20 sexual assaults reported to military authorities lead to jail time for the perpetrator, which is another reason why victims remains silent.
WHY THIS MOVIE IS IMPORTANT
In a Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives, the movie addresses the internal war veterans of sexual assault deal with once they come home. Jillian Bullock, the writer, director and producer, interviewed over 100 men and women who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, most due to being sexually assaulted or raped. She also interviewed men who did rape while they served. Under a confidentiality agreement, Jillian told the men she would not use their name or any identifying information in the script. Last, Jillian made sure to interview military and civilian psychologists who treated military sexual assault survivors.
In the script Jillian wrote Sgt. Diane Torres, (portrayed by actor Tamara Woods), is not only raped by her commanding officer, Captain Jake Nixon, (portrayed by actor John Quinlan), but she becomes pregnant with his baby. Diane, who suffers from depression and PTSD, must decide if she is going to keep the baby or abort it.
(Actors John Quinlan and Tamara Woods)
However, a twist in the film is that Nixon also suffers from PTSD from being sexually assaulted by his foster father when he was a boy. Between that childhood terror and being involved in violence and killings while he fought in wars during his 20 year Army service, Nixon turned from a victim to a predator. He found the Army to be the perfect feeding ground for sexual assault or rape since Nixon is in the power of authority and can make Diane’s life a living hell. Also, in Nixon’s position, over the years, he has become a serial rapist with several women under his command.
Military Sexual Trauma
Once home from service many veterans struggle to assimilate back into society and reconnect with their family, spouse, children, and friends. If they are dealing with PTSD, especially as a result of being sexually assaulted, they may succumb to alcohol and drug abuse, anger outbursts, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a number of other issues. This often leads to martial trouble, homelessness, can’t hold a job, paranoid tendencies, or suicidal thoughts.
Sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment can trigger a variety of health problems. Veterans often seek help through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thousands of veterans are deemed disabled by the VA. The VA says 1 in 5 women and 1 in 100 men screen positive for military sexual trauma.
(Source: Jennifer D. Stevens)
This is one of the reasons why the military isn’t getting any better when it comes to handling sexual assaults. They put the responsibility on the potential victim, not the person who wants to commit the heinous act.
Jennifer Stevens, a 10-year veteran of the armed forces and a battalion commander in the Ohio National Guard, stated - "In all my years in the military, I've never heard anyone say anything about what's being done to stop the perpetrators. It is absolutely alarming."
As Real As It Gets
Mike Beason was 18 years old when he was in bootcamp and raped by his commanding officer. Twenty-five years later, Mike is still labeled disabled by the VA. He was one of the people Jillian interviewed for her script. In fact, Mike is in the movie and shares a little of his story when he confronts Nixon about his horrific behavior. It was a difficult scene for Mike to do, but he says he felt comfortable with Jillian’s compassion on set and how she took her time to work through the scene with him and actor John Quinlan.
(Director and Writer Jillian Bullock giving direction to John Quinlan and Mike Beason)
Mike, who has been dealing with depression and PTSD for a quarter of a century, told Jillian that two years prior to their meeting he attempted to kill himself when he held a gun to his head and squeezed the trigger. Luckily, the gun misfired.
Mike continues to get counseling and trains in bodybuilding, which is how he lost 85 pounds. He realizes that he can’t be cured, but he constantly works on bringing mental and emotional stability to his life.
(Source: Lance Cpl. Sullivan Laramie/U.S. Marine Corps)
A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives is a timely and important movie to give more exposure to these topics and to help give hope to those who have been affected. There are far too many stories like Mike’s out there. However, there is also not enough being done to make the necessary changes in the military that would safeguard those who serve.
Sexual assault and rape in the military is an epidemic. It’s a crisis. It’s a full blown problem that needs far more attention in order to affect change. For instance, countries like Sweden have no separate military legal system. If a soldier commits a crime it is handled in civilian court. Not so in the U.S. military where someone who has been sexual assaulted must report the incident to their commanding officer. But what happens when the commanding officer is the rapist?
(Source: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman David Flewellyn/U.S. Navy)
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been one of the most vocal politicians when it comes to the military’s problem and how to handle assault cases. She introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act.
The legislation would send military sexual assault allegations to independent prosecutors outside of the “chain of command," stated Senator Gillibrand. Sexual assault in the military remains “as pervasive as ever.”
(Source: Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski/U.S. Air Force)
“There is so much talk going on about safety in workplaces, but that should also include the Armed Forces, which is the largest employer in the world. It is my hope that my movie will have an impact on the military, and audiences will demand the military live up to their so called ‘zero tolerance.’ Men and women go into the Armed Forces to serve their country. They should be safe and protected from these heinous crimes.” – Jillian Bullock
This Is Your Life
Can you imagine living a life where you go to work every day and you don’t know if today is the day one of your co-workers, or your boss, will attack you. Then you’re too terrified to tell anyone because your attacker carries a gun and he threatens to kill you if you say anything. On top of that your company is in a remote location where you can’t get a flight out for months, maybe a year, and that’s only if your boss approves your transfer request. And with all this going on you have to learn to live with being a victim and functioning every day with your attacker still working with you. Even worse, you could be attacked again by the same person or somebody else. Just think about how you would feel.
The bottom line is this - the men and women who join any branch of the military have made major sacrifices. They are separated from their families on holidays, anniversaries, birthdays. They live with the fact that they might not make it home if they are stationed in war areas. They are under pressure to serve their country well. They have to constantly undergo rigorous physical training and classes to do their jobs at the highest level. They must protect the United States and other countries from terrorists and foreign enemies. The last thing men and women in the Armed Forces should have to worry about is being sexually assaulted, raped or harassed. They deserve better.
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