Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Matter of National Security

                                           A Matter of National Security

      I cast around, looking to find an outlet for my anger. I had to be able to stop this from happening to others. I was relieved that my Father been held accountable for his crimes. But I wanted more.  I set my sights on the United States Army. I wrote a letter explaining what had happened to me and sent it to the appropriate office. I requested my medical records and I waited. I was called by Major Douglas Dribben. He was in the Foreign Torts Branch. I received the paperwork to fill out to make a claim against the Army for doing nothing to stop my Father. If they had stopped him so many years ago, there would never have been more children living in the darkness of my Father's actions. I wanted them to realize what they had done. What it had cost me and so many others. I wanted to have mattered. It mattered, we were children and we were important. The letters went back and forth. He spoke with my Mother, my Brother. They both wrote letters, gave statements. I still have them. My Mother, in her own distinct hand writing. Of course, she tells the edited version. The one where she too, is a victim. I did not protest. I never thought she would write it at all. Major Dribben and I had many conversations, he said if my medical records and my Father's military records showed that the abuse happened, if it was documented, the Army would consider my claim. I felt taken seriously. In the beginning. I tried to get my records. I hit a brick wall. At first letter said they were missing and then the next one said they were probably still in Germany, where we were stationed at the time. I knew this wasn't true. I started writing Congressmen. I have all their letters in response. It was always the same, they would contact the Record Repository and get no results. I called lawyers. I got a letter back from Gloria Allred and so many others. They were all sorry, they couldn't take the case.

   Eventually, Major Dribben explained how the Army handles such matters. If an accusation of sexual abuse is made against a Military Member, they give that individual a choice, counseling or a court martial. That is a pretty easy choice for the predator.  Counseling has never cured any sexual offender. But, here is were they turn the screw, they inform the other parent, usually the Mother, that if they were to bring charges against the service member, she would  lose everything. Housing, benefits, healthcare, EVERYTHING. But, if she is willing, they will not prosecute, and she becomes responsible for the care of the child in question, if there is any further abuse the blame is hers. Now, if the things above happen, and the child is abused again, that child has two years to bring action against the military. Keep in mind, this is a minor. So, the parents would have to bring that action, in the child's name. Which would never happen, because they are now both parties to that action and would be named as codefendants with the Army. It is cruelly, perfect for the Army. Everything just goes away. And the only ones that suffers are the victims. The original child and anyone who comes after. I did eventually find a lawyer, she was very nice. She was hopeful and I felt, finally that nameless doctor, from so long ago, would know what he did to me was wrong. To say I was lucky, to say I was safe and that it would never happen again. To allow me back in that home with that monster, was wrong. I really wanted him to know what his inaction had cost me. But, of course this was not the first time the Army had been through this. I had found while calling around for a lawyer, that I was not a unique case. There were thousands just like me.

   As he had done with me, Major Dribben first leaned toward making a responsible settlement through my lawyer and then changing his direction, he said that the time for my claim had past. He blamed me. He said I should have done something all those years ago. A child of eleven, in a foreign country, with no resources, I should have done something more. It was my fault. I cried deep, bitter tears. I had thought they could do nothing more to hurt me. I was wrong. In light of the two year limitation my lawyer took her leave. Again, I was alone, up against an Army that knowingly shielded pedophiles. My frustration and feelings of powerlessness devastated me. I still pressed on to get my records. I needed them. I needed to see it in writing, what had happened and what hadn't. My storm of letters continued. My phone rang at 5:45 am, I was asleep. I am many things, a morning person is not one of them. I answered it as I tried to force myself awake. It was a woman. She was calling me from the Records Repository. She had my records. She said that my records had been classified. I remember asking her to repeat that. I was wide a wake now, sitting up in the dark, clutching the phone, trying to make sense of her words. Was I really awake? She explained that MY records, the medical records of the first eleven years of MY life had been CLASSIFIED for reasons of NATIONAL SECURITY. I was struck dumb. She went on talking her gibberish. She did not want me to worry about them though. They were safe. She said were being held in the same place as John F. Kennedy's chest x-rays were. She said this as if I should feel relieved or honored. She said good bye and hung up. This was a revelation I had not seen coming. They out maneuvered me so easily.

   I called Major Dribben. I am very sure I was abrupt. We had had so many conversations by now, we had become almost friendly. He knew about about my records. He said he wanted to apologize to me. For what had been done to me all those years ago. He was sorry. He knew it did not change anything. He just wanted me to know. I think he said it for himself, so that he would feel somehow better about what was done. And it was over. I was left with castles made of sand, while the wind blow madly. Scattering everything. I could get no justice. I could make them change nothing. It would happen again, there were more like me yet to come. Children, victims and in the Army's judgement, they will be to blame, when it does nothing to protect them.

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