*Trigger warning for sensitive content
Today we debut the video for the song Iraq, a story song that I co-wrote with retired US Army Veteran Brandy Davidson. Iraq appears on my new album Rifles & Rosary Beads.
Brandy's story speaks for itself, but I'd like to offer a few words about co-writing songs with female veterans. Here's the last verse of the song:
I stood my ground, I didn't give in
I drew a line again and again
When they whistled and whispered
When the wind kicked up dust
I looked to the sky
ask the Lord why
I had no one to trust
The first time I saw those letters was about five years ago, on the day I sat down to write with a female Vietnam Veteran. She had MST tattooed on her forearm, inside a large, black, oval circle. Her aging tattoo, ink way deep in the skin of her bicep, sat right below the fold of her t-shirt.
I asked her: Annie, what is MST?
She looked me in the eye and said
"Military Sexual Trauma."
My gut lurched like an airplane losing altitude quickly. Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while a Veteran was in the military.
MST includes any sexual activity in which one is involved against one's will - he or she may have been pressured into sexual activities (for example, with threats of negative consequences for refusing to be sexually cooperative or with implied faster promotions or better treatment in exchange for sex), may have been unable to consent to sexual activities (for example, when intoxicated), or may have been physically forced into sexual activities.
Other experiences that fall into the category of MST include unwanted sexual touching or grabbing; threatening, offensive remarks about a person's body or sexual activities; and/or threatening or unwelcome sexual advances.
About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men respond "yes," that they experienced MST when screened by their VA provider.
*Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs Website
Female veterans often deal with sexism and sexualized violence during their service. Brandy's story, told in the song Iraq, speaks for many. A lack of resources and support continue to prolong their fight for justice and peace.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
I hope that this song helps move things in the right direction.
A portion of every sale goes to the non-profit SongwritingWith:Soldiers.