As a writer, it is gratifying to be read. It’s flattering to recommended. It’s heartening to be interacted with.
It is something else entirely to have someone take something you’ve written and use it as a seed for something far beyond what you’ve done. April Gardner (who has guest posted here before) did exactly that with my post from Friday about dealing with demands for evidence when discussing sexism. Someone dismissed her statement that “Systemic retribution where women are discharged using false psych diagnosis is a gender issue” as a supported by only “anecdotal” evidence.
There’s a saying relating to skepticism, where extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. For cases like this, it seems like there should be a plausible explanation corollary; that an explanation that fits within existing knowledge requires just basic review and fact checking. We know that women have faced far greater denial of attack both in and out of the military and we know that there is a cultural history of blaming the issues raised by troublesome women on psychiatric causes. Here is some relevant background to this specific issue:
- Personality Disorders typically emerge in adolescence and reflect a long-standing pattern of “maladaptive” behavior, inability to maintain employment or relationships, trouble in school, run-ins with the law and/or difficulty functioning under pressure. (If so, how do so many get into the military, pass basic training and advance through ranks before being diagnosed?)
- Psychiatrists do not recommend diagnosing this disorder during or following a tumultuous period in a person’s life: a death, a divorce or following sexual assault.
- Diagnosing a serious and permanent condition like personality disorder is a long and intensive process, yet these women reporting their diagnosis criteria describe a quick labeling and discharge.
- As a society, we have a cultural heritage of punitively diagnosing, labeling and even institutionalizing women. Psychiatry’s history in dealing with women is rather shameful.
- Pentagon estimates of sexual assault and rape for 2011 is around 19,000.
- The rate of false report for sexual crimes, depending on which source you use, is either in line with other violent crimes or much lower.
- Despite the fact that a minority of military personnel are women, female victims of sexual violence constitute more than half of all those being treated for sexual assault by Veterans Affairs.
- Male victims of rape and sexual assault are told that they were “hazed,” passing off sexual violence as an initiatory prank, while female victims are very often told that they are lying, that they were never attacked at all or had sex and then “changed their minds” etc. Both are dismissed as victims, but women are consistently blamed as deserving or choosing what happened to them.
- Female victims of sexual assault or rape often report that following their attacks, they are treated as problems by their fellow service members and commanding officers.
- CNN found this same pattern of improper diagnosis and discharge reported by women discharged from all branches of the armed forces.
In the light of this background, claims that these women are make some sort of extraordinary claim (thus requiring extraordinary evidence) simply don’t make sense. The idea that military personnel would exploit an option for military discharge of servicewomen perceived as problems is not merely plausible, it is in my opinion, probable. And to be honest, after I received such a dismissive response from Gerrond, I’m not surprised that insurmountable challenges getting proper action for injustices toward military victims continue.
Oh, those anecdotes. Seriously, though, this is one of those epic posts. Go read the whole thing. Then pass it around. Let me know if anyone manages to read it and dismiss this evidence as “anecdotal”.