July 15, 2012

Bill Nemitz: A Mainer testifies for all with invisible wounds

(Continued from page 2)

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Ruth Moore is shown outside her home in Milbridge. This week, she will tell the House Committee on Veterans Affairs what happened on a naval base in the Azores 25 years ago.

Courtesy photo

Her biggest fear?

"They'll hear the words, but will they understand the depth of it?" Ruth said. "Are their minds open to understanding it or is it a formality to shut people up?"

According to the Department of Defense, an estimated one in five women who seek care from the Veterans Health Administration answer "yes" when asked if they experienced sexual trauma during their service. Other studies have put the sexual-trauma rate for all women in the military closer to one in four.

Pingree, who along with Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has become increasingly vocal in recent years on behalf of military sexual trauma victims, said in an email Saturday that Ruth's story mirrors countless others where a sexual assault is denied or covered up and benefits are thus withheld because "the attack was never acknowledged in the first place."

"Ruth fought that fight for over two decades," Pingree said. "She didn't give up and has finally reclaimed her life. She is an unbelievably brave and persistent woman and the way she stuck it out is an inspiration. But at the same time it's an outrage that someone like Ruth has to fight that battle in the first place."

So why keep fighting now that she's finally won? Why not just wrap herself in the tranquility of her family and home -- she's building a "healing garden" alongside a brook that runs by the house -- and let the battle proceed without her?

Because, Ruth said, there are countless other women (and men, for that matter) still locked in the same misery she endured. And because, after all she went through, she was finally blessed with a daughter who this week will watch from the back of the hearing room as her mother becomes a hero.

"I'm standing up for something," Ruth said. "And she's going to know her mom stood up for something."

Samantha, even at 10, is so musically gifted that she'll enroll this fall in a music theory course at the University of Maine. In between rooster crows Friday, the house filled with her rendition of a complicated French composition on the family piano.

Ruth and Butch, both beaming, stood silently in the kitchen and reveled in every flawless note.

"She is my future," Ruth finally whispered. "She is my hope."

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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