Meeting Minutes from InspireSeattle Social on March 8, 2014

Women Under Fire

There is an extraordinary culture of violence and sexual abuse committed within the U.S. Military. Sarah Blum’s book, Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military, is a stunning revelation of sexual abuse in the U.S. Armed Forces. As Blum’s book makes scathingly clear, this criminal activity–demeaning, degrading and despicable – and is far too prevalent in each of the armed services. Action is needed–comprehensive, effective and swift–before sexual abuse rips out the very heart of the military.

From basic training on women soldiers are told that their fellow soldiers will “have their back”.  The emotional trauma and sense of betrayal that comes with a military sexual assault cannot be over-stated.  Sarah has spent years studying the experiences of women in the military including her own interviews of 58 women veterans.  Her findings?  Sexual assault, harassment and rape have escalated in recent years and now there are over 26,000 incidents/year, 71/day.  A servicewomen is assaulted every 20 minutes.  Furthermore, 95% of the rapes and assaults to military personnel are from repeat offenders and serial rapists.  The reporting, investigation and prosecution of these crimes are kept within the military chain of command, among officers who are likely to be more concerned about unity within the ranks and their own image as a commander than the pursuit of criminal justice.  In fact, 62% of women who report sexual assault face severe retaliation.  Victims are typically isolated from support, ostracized, and are humiliated within their ranks while the perpetrators are protected.  Survivors within the military also have no legal right to sue their perpetrators, their superiors, or their branch of the service for damages.  The military itself has immunity from external judicial review in cases of injury incurred “incident to service”.

It has become clear that we can no longer allow the military to investigate itself.  It is time for an outside, independent body to investigate both crimes of sexual assault within the military and to determine how so many cases have already been mishandled by the military. Over the past 22 years there have been over 18 different panel or commission reports, all of which went unheeded by Congress and our military. 

Most recently, Sarah traveled to Washington, D.C. to have face-to-face conversations with every Congressional member of the Armed Services Committee and their staffs and to provide them with a copy of her book.  You can educate yourself about this critical issue by reading Sarah’s book, Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military.  Contact your senators and congressional representative about the culture of abuse toward servicewomen and insist that the reporting, investigation and prosecution of these cases be taken out of the military chain of command.

Follow this link to read Sarah Blum’s complete talk delivered to InspireSeattle and learn more about how she came to write book, details of the problem, as well as the stories of the women.

Visit Sarah’s website:

You can also watch a video of Sarah’s speech at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on Veterans’ Day 2013.  Here she recounts her experiences as a soldier and operating room nurse in Vietnam.


Guest Speaker:

Sarah Blum is a decorated nurse Vietnam veteran who earned the Army Commendation Medal serving as an operating room nurse at the 12th Evacuation Hospital Cu Chi, Vietnam during the height of the fighting in 1967. Sarah was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for exemplary service as head nurse of the orthopedic ward at Madigan Army Hospital in 1968, where she was also the assistant director of nursing on evening and night shift in 1970. She received her Bachelor s Degree, Summa Cum Laude, from Seattle University and her Master s, Cum Laude, from U. W. and at age 74, Sarah is still a practicing nurse psychotherapist with over 29 years experience working with PTSD and trauma resolution.

Sarah was one of the first two women elected to the National Board of Directors of the Vietnam Veterans of America in 1983, and she was active in veterans affairs and successfully lobbied Congress to study the connection between Agent Orange and birth defects in the children of women Vietnam veterans.

Sarah's first Op Ed, Sexual Abuse in the Military Needs to be Brought to Light , was published July 12, 2012 in The Seattle Times and her second, Sex Crimes Continue to Plague the U.S. Military, was published in Truthout on January 15, 2013. Sarah s guest editorial, Support the Joint Memorial, appeared in the July 12th, 2013 issue of the Auburn Reporter. Her authentic passionate voice reverberates through the pages of Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military and the sequel, Women Under Fire: PTSD and Healing.


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Speaker:  Sarah Blum

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