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Book review of "Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America's Military

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Essential Reading for all Americans

Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America's Military

    This is an extraordinary book. The topic itself is taboo. Dr. Mic Hunter's examination of it is broad, thorough, and covers a great range of topics, from incentives for enlisting to domestic violence in military families (five times higher than civilian settings), domestic killings, the role and treatment of women in today's military, homophobia, sexual harassment, sexual assault, military leadership, etc.

While mostly focused on the US military it does discuss some issues with Canadian military and presents some research on the military of other countries.

    Dr. Hunter takes you inside traditions and practices which may be unfamiliar and shocking. No holds are barred when he examines military slang, most of which cannot be repeated here because of vulgarity. Even having treated veterans for many years, I was not prepared for some of this content.

    This book confronts a great many myths with research data. Dr. Hunter notes that even the Pentagon acknowledges that many male veterans acknowledge having been sexually assaulted by their comrades in arms - and also notes that contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of such male victims are heterosexual. A full 28% of female veterans who were surveyed reported that they had been assaulted while serving their country. Dr. Hunter reviews data and dozens of case examples - some well-known cases, and some which did not receive much publicity.

The issues of hazing and indoctrination are extremely shocking. Having treated veterans of a number of wars and also having worked with sexual and other types of abuse for 40 years, I was surprised and shocked by a number of these. Even extensive experience working with victims was not adequate preparation for some of these stories. The examples ranged from those in military academies to those in basic training and service situations.

Dr. Hunter explores the impact of sexual assault, sexual harassment, hazing, and other aspects of service using research data, case examples, and some cases which have been litigated. Tailhook and other cases are reviewed and their eventual outcomes examined. He also examines torture, harassment of prisoners, and other forms of brutality - from Me Lai to Abu Ghraib.

Dr. Hunter has peppered his text with a variety of current or recent cases, which is quite helpful. But he has a dizzying array of quotes and examples from military leaders and situations going back centuries. I don't want to present too many in hopes that you will read the book and see them in context, but one sidebar (p. 113) is entitled "Ike & the Dykes" and is a fascinating story about Dwight Eisenhower I have never seen.

Dr. Hunter covers a number of issues with military leadership and traditions. He examines parallels between military leadership and some of the behavior of drug addicted persons. There are interesting sections on attitudes towards women and the role of prostitution and official sanctioning of it over many centuries through the present.

The last section of the book contains an array of in-depth personal accounts of a wide range of situations. Some of those who write identify themselves. Some are familiar cases such as that of Gregory Helle (author of A Walk in Hell: The Other Side of War ) and Reverend Dorothy H. Mackey (co-founder of Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel, Captain & Commander, Federal Women's Supervisor of the Year, US Air Force Commendation Medal, US Air Force Achievement Medal). These ten personal stories which make up Part II of the book provides a rich set of case examples, which like the rest of the book, are very stirring to read.

Despite the grim picture he paints, Dr. Hunter also has suggestions for change and even optimistic thoughts about it, noting that the military successfully dealt with racism against African Americans, and in some places this change preceded such changes in civilian life. This is not just about problems - it is about solutions.

The book contains many fascinating pieces I was not expecting. I was fascinated by the "Pop Quiz" on p. 231 where one is asked to identify which "dangerous group" is being referred to - African Americans, Women, or Gays/Lesbians. Dr. Hunter has peppered the book with intriguing challenges to our knowledge.

This is one of the best books on abuse I have ever read, and it stands alone in terms of the main topic - honor betrayed - sexual abuse in America's military. I read it straight through - I had difficulty putting it down. I plan to read it a second time - there was so much of importance in it that it was hard to take it all in during one reading.

This book should be required reading for citizens and legislators and all those who have anything to do with sending people off to war and welcoming them back home. Anyone who is offering service to veterans has, in my professional opinion, an obligation to read this book. There are many things in it which service personnel are not likely to reveal.

In case you are not familiar with Mic Hunter, he is a Licensed Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist who practices in St. Paul, MN. He's the author of four other books including Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse , for which he received the Fay Honey Knopp Memorial Award from the National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization. If you haven't seen it, I would also highly recommend a book he co-authored with Jim Struve - The Ethical Use of Touch in Therapy . He is the author of many articles and lectures and trains internationally.

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Dr. Mic Hunter is licensed as both a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist. He is the author of numerous books. His private practice is in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he lives with his wife of 27 years. He is the author of numerous books (more...)
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