Release No. 15-0022
Rachel Totten Keith
Female Veteran starts non-profit to provide legal aid and other resources for current and former service members of the U.S. Armed Forces
Today, female service members are more than five times likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts. Today, female service members have a 1 in 3 chance of being sexually assaulted during their careers. Despite the recent celebrations over the expanding role women play in the military, to include combat and soon infantry career positions opened up to women, one retired female vet thinks we are failing our women and it has nothing to do with career stagnation.
Women still struggle in today’s armed forces. Rachel Keith spent 17 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Security Forces member, that is, military police. She was frequently only one of only 2 or 3 women out of a flight of 20. She knew that in order to gain the respect of her peers, she had to work twice as hard to prove that she earned her rank and medals. It was a common misconception that women were only promoted because they had “assets” that the males could not compete with.
In her position as a command criminal investigator, Keith saw first hand the troubles female victims were having when reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. Nine times out of ten, the commands would dismiss the cases because the there was usually involved little evidence and the situations were minimized as a “he said-she said” issue or that the suspect and victim had a misunderstanding.
DOD ineffective at solving culture of sexual harassment and nepotism. By the time Keith retired, she had had enough. Despite all the resources the Department of Defense (DOD) says they have for female troops, the statistics are not changing. Suicides are still at an all time high and very few sexual assaults were even prosecuted. She was determined that if the military leaders and the government weren’t going to do anything, she was.
So, Keith started a non-profit called Sisters In Arms (SIA). The goal is to provide resources, support, and comradery that is often missing in the female culture in the services. Right now, Sisters In Arms is registered with the state of Texas and they are working on obtaining their 501c3 non-profit tax exempt status. Currently, they have a board that includes five women, four are prior service and one was employed by the Navy as a civilian. Ultimately, their goal is to provide pro-bono legal representation locally and perhaps someday nationally.
Women working together to provide support and information. Keith believes there are still too many voices going unheard. Even though SIA is just starting out with no advertising or any real publicity, there is already a strong online support from women all over the U.S. There is currently a local 5k in the works as well as yoga in downtown Fort Worth to help raise money and bring more awareness to the cause. If you know of any woman who needs assistance or for more information, contact Rachel Keith or Katrina Jones at 817-944-3469.