In light of the release of the Invisible War documentary, I've been reflecting on the whole of my experiences so far. From the rape til the day I finally got my settlement from the VA. Other than it being a catastrophic disaster of epic proportions, a great deal of the crap I had to deal with was totally unnecessary.
The VA didn't have to make my life hell by hanging that axe over my head for two freaking years while I waited on some stuffed suit bureaucrat to decide my fate. When I sent in the paperwork, I included about five pounds worth of evidence from my doctors, and from my friends even. My doctors all worked for the VA, all you'd think it would take would be a freaking email from my doctor to some idiot in a suit, and it could have been handled in like a week. Nope. Maybe they hate trees? I was traumatized all over again every time I had to call them, or fill out more paperwork, and every waking moment for two years. It is one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life to have to sit down with strangers and tell them about the most horrible thing I have ever been through, over and over and over.
It's bad enough just talking to doctors. In the three years I have been getting treatment at the VA I've had five psychiatrists, two social worker interns, and one psychology intern. Every time I had to ignore the fact that I didn't trust these idiot head shrinkers and tell my story once again. This isn't counting the other random VA people I had to talk to, not to mention my advocates. My advocates, bless their hearts, handled the brunt of the paperwork, and just told me where to sign. I couldn't function because I was in the middle of nervous break-down at the time. My boyfriend had to lead me around by the hand to get me to do anything at all.
The army was worse, by far. The army was openly hostile about soldiers displaying any kind of weakness. The VA jerks all seem completely apathetic to the fact that they were causing me harm. I'd have an appointment to talk to someone, and I'd have a panic attack in their office and they'd just keep handing me forms to fill out like nothing was happening. Take a number and have a seat in the waiting area, someone will get to you eventually.
In the army I could just shout, start arguments, insult people, and generally annoy people, and this was still preferable to them over me admitting that war and rape had affected me adversely. The VA just ignores everything. Obviously, my doctors have to pay attention, but no one else there does. Not even the pharmacists give a shit. I seriously had to go to the ER because they weren't sending me my medications in a timely manner (the VA mails out the meds, I don't know why) and I suffered through discontinuation syndrome which involves nasty hallucinations. The clinic were they send traumatized women at the VA, is right above a methadone dispensary and homeless coordinator. What the hell is that shit about? We have to use their receptionists also, because the VA won't fork up the cash for our clinic to have our own. The "clinic" itself is a hallway with about 7 therapists and two psychiatrists working out of tiny shared offices, across from administrative offices. It feels like shark week every time I check in for an appointment. The waiting area in the clinic is a couple of chairs shoved back against the wall in the corner between our hallway and the administrative hallway. I resent the hell out of them, because dealing with my nightmare is just an afterthought the VA decided to add at the last minute but didn't budget for.
Have I mentioned lately that I hate people? Seriously what kind of messed up civilization do we have, that people who protect us are brutally assaulted and victimized, their perpetrators get away scott free, and then they have to suffer all sorts of horrible things in order to get help they need? This whole thing reeks of election year politics to me. Every now and then some politician will stand in front of a camera and dust this issue off to shock and horrify people, but no one ever really does anything to fix it. Frankly, my advice to people is, don't let your daughters and sisters and wives join the military. The government only cares about them as a statistic they can flaunt to the media anyway, "Look at how awesome and non-discriminatory we are!". They have no idea how to deal with issues that affect women. They have a policy that forces female soldiers to go to a gynecologist once a year for a pap smear and breast exams as necessary. Sometimes they even issue sports bras with equipment issues, but like all equipment, they only come in two sizes, too big or too small. They don't have body armor designed for female soldiers that fits us as comfortably as they fit male soldiers. They sure as shit can't protect soldiers from one another. They've cultivated a culture where women are afraid for their lives to report it when they are raped. I'm not saying women can't do everything that men can do (and in most cases do it as well or better), but why should we? What do we get out of it? Sure as shit don't get respect. If you survive it, your relationships have a greater than average chance of failing horribly (I don't know why that's true, I only know it is. It's like gravity. I don't know why it works, but I know if I go up, I'm going to come back down). Shit, when I went to basic training, my drill sergeants forbade females from smiling, and accused us of flirtation when we did even if there was no one around. I had to sit through a "Don't be a whore" lecture from one drill sergeant also.
I'm not saying I'm not proud of the things that I did in service to my country...but why? I did what I did, and I hope it helped, but any help I gave sure as shit didn't make any difference to the way I was treated. No matter how good I was, it didn't matter. I kinda resent that now. All I ever did was try to give my all to the army when they needed me.