PBS' Carrier: Why Didn't They Film the Rape-Stops?

Suki— 05/2008
PBS is renowned for highlighting issues other media channels censor out. But when it comes to the rape of prostitutes by 'our boys' in the Navy, PBS joins the media conspiracy of silence. Falconberg asks why.

LAST MONTH, PBS broadcast a show called Carrier, about life aboard the USS NIMITZ, an aircraft carrier with a crew of about 6000 sailors. It showed life on the ship and on shore during a six-month deployment in 2005. The Nimitz stopped at various ports in the Pacific, Australia, and the Arabian Gulf. Women were involved in the production of the film, among them director Maro Chermayeff and co-producer Deborah Dickson.

Here is a letter I wrote to PBS about the show:

I was disappointed that Carrier did not cover a basic fact of military life: when sailors move from port to port, they visit bars and brothels and rape the bodies of sexually enslaved women and girls. In its homeport, San Diego, sailors from the Nimitz rape the prostituted bodies of girls in that city and in Tijuana. These girls are subject to the harshness of the sex industry which treats women like modern-day slaves; girls are held in debt bondage, pimp-controlled, trafficked. Tijuana is in fact a 'corridor' city: girls are 'broken' there before being shipped to U.S. markets. To make them submissive, the girls are subjected to gang rapes, beatings, starvation, being filming for porn to degrade them, along with psychological terror tactics. This is the norm of what happens to prostituted beings. These are the broken bodies sailors buy and use.

I notice that during this 2005 six-month deployment of the Nimitz which PBS filmed, the ship docked in Thailand. When our navy visits this country, they dock off of Pattaya, a prostitution city created for the military. About a third of the girls trafficked to meet the sailors' sexual needs are underage. Numerous eyewitnesses have told me that the first thing the U.S. sailors do, when they hop of the boats that ferry them in, is head straight for the sex-for-sale enslaved girls. Why didn't the film crew document the men going with prostituted, enslaved women and girls and girl children in Pattaya? (My sources are military men themselves who have told me about what the fleet does in Thailand.)

During this 2005 deployment, the Nimitz also stopped at Dubai, a major trafficking destination in that part of the world. Large numbers of girls from Russia, the Ukraine, and Moldova are trafficked into this 'sex playground' by the Russian mafia. The girls are broken at nearby Pakistani labor camps where the pimps let a different man in every 15 minutes to mount the enslaved body. This goes on for days or even weeks until her spirit is gone. Until she is docile enough to accept rape by 30 or more men on a daily basis. These broken women and girls are the ones our sailors are using. The men see only the end product — the girl who must smile to survive even though she is no longer alive as a human being.

Another stop, Bahrain, is also a major trafficking destination. It was amusing to see the PBS crew filming the sailors visiting an orphanage under the guidance of a chaplain. I assume this behavior was staged as a PR stunt for the benefit of the PBS crew.

All the other port stops — Hawaii, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, India — also offer enslaved, prostituted bodies. When the men left the ship in Hong Kong, there was a girl handing out cards to them saying "Happy Place." The sailors snorted with laughter, obviously well–acquainted with these 'happy' places. Then the film crew followed the men on a shopping trip. Why no film crew accompanying them into the brothels?

One young sailor aboard the ship did mention how, on a previous trip, he and his crewmates has visited a bar/brothel in Rio where, "it was insane, the strippers were really going at it, on the bar tops."

Usage of prostituted/enslaved/trafficked bodies is common-place in the military. Of course, the navy is not going to voluntarily show a film crew this aspect of sailors' behavior. I am disappointed that the woman who directed the show and the female co-producer continue to cover up this side of the military — that they did not film the sailors and their typical 'sexual liberty' activities in Pattaya and Dubai. Closer to home, I am disappointed these women did not film the sailors visiting the red-light areas in San Diego which are full of trafficked, enslaved Filipina girls. This director and producer have betrayed the raped bodies of all these women.

I would like to know what the women sailors aboard the ship think of this rape of their prostituted sisters — do they make the connection? High rates of sexual assault in the military are directly related to the time-honored rape of for-sale women by sailors. Train and allow men to rape one group of women, and they will rape others as well.

I read that the Nimitz is planning to dock in Hong Kong this month. Perhaps PBS could do some 'postscript' filming — follow the men into the brothels. As a woman who was raped and prostituted by the U.S. military, I would like my side of military history to be told. What is 'fun' for the sailors is life imprisonment in rape hell for us prostitutes. I wish women journalists and filmmakers would cover what happens to us.

Cordially, Suki, rape/prostitution survivor (except that I didn't survive)