Today, BROADSIDED presented perhaps one of the most difficult programs ever – talking about the epidemic of Military Sexual Assault,  Part II in the series.  The original program aired August 11, 2011.  We spoke of the issue in the abstract, fact and figures.  While we did have a victim on the program, Panayiota Bertzikis, she had laser-like focus on The Military Rape Crisis Center, of which she is the founder and Executive Director.  Ms. Bertzikis is admirably far more interested in getting help for other victims.  It was our impression that’s how she copes with her attack.  A very healthy response and we applaud her and her work.

But our listeners made sure we knew our job wasn’t finished.  They wanted to hear the voices of the victims – to know what’s really happening and to hear what the United States Armed Services was doing about it.  Sadly, they learned that the military in our country was doing something worse than nothing – they were giving most of the perpetrators a pass and punishing the victim, in a variety of ways. We were bombarded by service women and men who weren’t exactly anxious to tell their story, in all it’s rawness in a public forum, but they needed to talk, to get it out.  We listened and listened and listened and what we heard was so unbelievable, no one could ever make it up. We asked two brave souls to come on and tell their story – and tell it they did.  The response on our chat line was what took us aback, more than a little.

We personally know several of the people on our Live Chat line and know them to be kind, loving and generous people, not to mention socially conscious.  It was an experience to watch their kind and loving embrace toward the victims mixed with a near mob mentality in wanting the names and addresses of the perpetrators to extract some justice.  Their empathetic pain for the victims and the feeling of helplessness as the stories went from bad, to terrible to unspeakable was palpable.  If you missed the program, you can listen to the archive here.

We would like to apologize to our listeners for the technical difficulties – the portion of the program featuring Nancy Parrish, President of Protect our Defenders, did not originally air.  The best Engineer in radio, Dustin Gilder, was able to splice the interview into the archive where it was originally meant to be, so please take the time to give it a listen.  She had some valuable information to share.  She’s a kind, generous, well-spoken lady who does fine work on behalf of the victims and she shared what you can do to make a difference.

Most importantly, we give our most heart-felt thanks to Terri Odom and Heath Phillips.  If you ever wondered what heroes truly sound like, you need only listen to them bravely tell their stories.  Radio has it’s advantages.  Our listeners can’t see us wipe away the tears and they don’t know that we’re muting our mics to muffle the sobs.  When you look up the words “brave” or “survivor” in the dictionary, if their photos aren’t there, it’s a misprint.

Finally, we beg of you, on behalf of those who serve in our military, be an advocate for the victims.  19,000 sexual assaults were documented in 2010 (the latest available figures).  Of those, less than 3 percent resulted in any substantive punishment for the sex offenders.  A woman serving in the United States military is more likely to experience sexual assault from a fellow American soldier than she is to be injured or killed in the line of duty.  That’s 1 in 3 women and that doesn’t even address the men who are assaulted.  Think about those figures.  Digest them for a moment.  The longer you think about it, the worse it gets.

So, the question is, what can you do?  It’s pretty simple, actually.  Go to  Watch all of the videos on the main page.  All of them.  Educate yourself on the pending legislation that will take the power out of the hands of the commanding officers and place it in the hands of an outside party.  It will protect the victims and make the offenders accountable for the first time.  There are petitions you can sign.  Please do so.  “Like” their Facebook page and share it with your friends.  We encourage the use of social media to spread the word.  Finally, take a moment to contact Representative Jackie Speier.  Congress may have a 9 percent approval rating, but this woman is the very definition of a public servant.  She is sponsoring the legislation that will make the lasting change needed.  Too many politicians take a whole lot of flak for doing nothing.  She deserves our thanks for her work on behalf of our service personnel.

We know this is not the end of the story.  Once we have some progress on the pending legislation, we’ll be providing updates.  We will also keep in contact with Terri and Heath.  They are officially part of our BROADSIDED and Here Women Talk family.  We love them dearly and we take care of our own.

Don’t just sit there!  Go to the Protect Our Defenders website and make a difference!

… all of them!