MRS. COLONEL AND THE MOLE
I had an interesting case of a national serviceman who did a week of basic training before being sent up to be a teacher at the (white) primary school in Oshakati. This is a civilian-type job with minimal army responsibilities, so he was very lucky.
He got himself into a situation where a 14 year old was blackmailing him, that unless the 24 year old teacher allowed him to drive the teacher's car, the child would tell everyone that the teacher had been making sexual advances to him.
The teacher had taken the boy on holiday with him, during which a number of bizarre sexual activities occurred. The teacher admits having given the boy a 'blow job', but says that the boy insisted and the teacher was very drunk at the time. The teacher, from what he admitted to me, could have been locked up for a long time. It could be said that he could be a danger to children.
The chaplain's service managed to get control of the teacher, and together with the school principal, decided to send him to Pieter Spies, dismissed by mental health professionals that I knew as a religious crank, in Pretoria. Spies was neither a registered mental health worker, nor a registered religious minister, but he ran a clinic for treating gays. (We had the man come and speak to us at the Psychiatry Department, 1 Military Hospital, and as a department, we did not approve of how he went about his 'therapy', which seems to induce a great amount of guilt.) The Dominees all swear by him. They were going to refer the teacher down, for Spies to give an 'objective' opinion on whether he was a homosexual or not, after which they would decide on his further utilisation as a teacher. The fact that both teacher and pupil could have severe psychological problems, and the fact that there were two clinical psychologists on site in Oshakati did not lead them to hesitate in their management plan.
Somehow the teacher came knocking on my door, in a severely agitated state, and pleaded to see me. I saw him, found out what was going on, and then set the wheels in motion to take him over as a medical patient, to be dealt with psychiatrically.
On Friday he presented to me at 3 p.m., and on Monday at 10H45 he left Oshakati on his way down to the Psychiatry Department of 1 Military Hospital. We took control of him quite effectively - he has a psychiatric diagnosis - and there has been no objection from anyone - or if there was, I haven't heard about it yet, and it was my decision to send him down. (Do anything with enough conviction and no-one dares to or dreams of challenging you - maybe that's only true of the PF!)
We could have dealt with him here, but emotions were running high (both pro- and anti-), and the Brigadier (OC Sector 10) had said that when the sun rises on Monday, the teacher must no longer be in Sector 10. (Shades of Romeo and Juliet!)
Enter a complicating factor; Mrs. `Colonel'! Mrs. Colonel has a long psychiatric history herself and is notorious as Oshakati's gossip. She tries to help people, motivated usually by her own voyeurism, and she invariably puts her foot in it and antagonises everyone, and then everybody hates her and nobody loves her ... ("I think I'll go and eat worms!")
Now, she happens to have emotionally adopted the teacher, hasn't she? Right! The teacher now appears to be a snivelling little `Mole', helpless and hopeless (and spineless!) and one hopes that no-one like him ever ends up teaching one's own kids. But does he stop causing trouble? No! Saturday morning, bright and early, he goes to the school's athletic meeting (Fool! Fool! Fool!) to see 'his' children for the last time (Sniff Sniff!) He had been banned from the school as soon as the child started making accusations, of course.
The story was by now the talk of Oshakati, but some people (Unbelievably?) seemed to be rallying to his support. He was not lynched, stoned, hung, drawn or quartered - are the people of Oshakati many decades more permissive than those in South Africa? One mother asked him, if he was `going away', who would continue to teach her daughter music? This was too much for him - and with a lot of encouragement from Mrs. Colonel - he had become hysterical, and she was able to rush him to the sickbay. He arrived back at the sickbay again on Saturday afternoon. Saturday afternoon I had reserved to do educational assessments on two little kids from Ruacana. (I can't explain why I was working on Saturday afternoon, apart from concern for the kids, in whom I had diagnosed specific learning difficulties, and I was able to give guidance to the two appreciative parents. Its nice to be able to help people occasionally!)
Mrs. Colonel stormed into the sickbay, finds me and tells me what has happened. She took him into one of the examining rooms, lay him down on the bed, and stroked his arm while tears streamed down his face. With her 'receiving end' medical knowledge and prolonged psychiatric experience, she said that we should admit him to our isolation ward, and put him on an etamine drip. (A drug used to tranquillise patients who go berserk.)
Of course we were not going to do that! The patient has a (mild?) personality disorder - he's not physically sick or psychotic. I went into the examining room, thanked Mrs. Colonel for bringing him in, and told her that I would evaluate him, and then I would decide how to manage him further. ("Go away, Mrs. Colonel!")
She went out, and walked over to Dr. Dave Dix (The only doctor prepared to spend hours of his own time listening to her self-pity and self-inflicted misery.) She told him that she was concerned that I did not appreciate the seriousness of the Mole's problem, and asked him to make sure that the Mole was admitted. ("Go away, Mrs. Colonel!")
I was left alone with the Mole in the examining room. He was still lying on the bed snivelling. I told him to get up and to sit in the chair across the desk from me, and I waited blandly for him to stop crying, which didn't take long when he saw that I was not soothingly sympathetic. I told him that he had been looking for trouble, and from then on he was confined to barracks. (I'm a Captain and he's a Private! I can tell him such things.)
I pointed out how stupid he had been, and said that he must do nothing without my permission. The army was not being unfair to him, and that things could have been a lot worse - he could have criminal charges laid against him, and he could be kept in prison until the trial. He sensed that I was irritated, and with huge spaniel eyes asked; "Tell me one thing, Doctor. (Dramatic pause.) Are you angry with me?" (Diagnosis: Dependent Personality Disorder, with strong histrionic traits). I didn't hit him. I swear I didn't hit him. I sent him away - confined to barracks, mainly to protect him from himself.
I spent the rest of the afternoon doing the educational assessments. At six o'clock (18H00) I went to supper after having given feedback to the parents for an hour and a half.
Mrs. Colonel stormed into the Officers' Mess dining hall, and walked up to where I was sitting eating with a group of friends. "Excuse me, Captain Fowler, can I see you for two minutes. Its very urgent." So I go, like a lamb to the slaughter, outside, (and my supper is whisked away as soon as my back is turned).
The 'urgent' thing turned out to be that the Mole's very 'camp' best friend is urging the Mole to ask for an official inquest, and he (very camp) is prepared to come forward as a character witness and swear that the Mole is not gay. This is 'urgent'?
(Commandant Potgieter's solution was to erect a gallows and hang the Mole, and hang his 'queer friend' while they were about it. I doubt that the friend's testimony would carry much weight.)
Also, Mrs. Colonel wanted to take the Mole, and his (?) boyfriend and go and get the Mole's car, which he left at the school's athletics area, when he became hysterical and lost his car keys. They were also going to collect some of the Mole's clothes which he had left at the boyfriend's house. (Things were getting worse by the minute!)
She also wanted to take the two of them out and buy them cooldrinks. Okay, the car had to be collected - but that was not urgent! - so I let them go, but sent one of our most trusted ops. medics along as well, who just happened to be very 'camp' himself - Willie. The medic was to make sure that the Mole said nothing to anyone, and to be a symbol of the Medical Service who were now in charge of the patient - except for Mrs. Colonel's influence. The four of them drove off in Mrs. Colonel's car, and I settled down to interview a patient (on Saturday evening) who had been sent in after a suicide attempt.
After about an hour and a half, the gang of four had not returned, and I began to fear for my medic. I also contemplated locking the Mole up in the stockade until we could get him out of the area, again, for his own protection. I tried to trace him. I phoned Colonel Colonel, who said that his wife wasn't there. He sounded very, very tired! Anxiety increases. At last I heard them arriving, and I found the Mole, looking devastated, being helped up the steps of the sickbay by Mrs. Colonel. (The Mole has a personality disorder - he isn't even clinically depressed. There is no reason why he can't walk unaided, which he demonstrated when I managed to get rid of Mrs. Colonel.) Mrs. Colonel said that they had taken longer than expected - stoney silence from me. They had still not brought all his stuff back from the school, but this would have to be done the next day. I had to ask her for the keys to the Mole's car - she seemed determined to keep her foot in the door. Then the Mole wanted to speak to me, with his friend, so I saw them for a while.
The Mole was saying that he wanted to tell the 14 year old's parents what had really happened, which I forbad. 'When it was all over' he wanted to come back and visit. I told him that it would never be over, and that such actions would be asking for more trouble. Then he wanted me to promise that I would follow his suggestions when I saw the boy. I told him that this had nothing to do with him, and I would give him so such assurances. I then told him that he was confined to barracks, and that is where he fades from the picture until I did a full psychiatric interview with him on the Monday morning, after which he departed on his way to 1 Military Hospital, with a lengthy report from me and a letter explaining the political ramifications of the situation. But Mrs. Colonel remains a leading figure in the story.
At supper time on Sunday she stormed into the sickbay. The medics told her that I was unavailable, to protect me, but I walked in to save them. Again she had three burning issues which couldn't wait until after I had had my supper. They were:
(1) What was her role in co-ordinating a farewell party for the Mole? Of course she realised that I was in charge of the case (Really?), and she had spread the word that people who wanted to write to him should give their letters unsealed to her, who would give them unsealed to me, and I would read through them and decide what could be forwarded to him, and what could not. Also many of the parents wanted to bake cakes for him, and she would deliver these to me to decide whether or not to give them to him. (Wait! Would I want to eat a cake given by a parent to a child molester? Not without observing what happened to other people who ate slices first!) Strange! I would have expected that such a person would have been run out of town, but he seemed to have become something of a local hero. The female clerk who arranged his ticket to 1 Mil asked me to take care of him because he was a good friend of hers. I forbad any farewell party, and explained diplomatically to her that this decision was to make the Mole's departure less of an emotional strain. Mrs. Colonel said that 'when it was all over', she intended sending the Mole a bouquet wishing him well, "... with love from Colonel and Mrs. Colonel." (How would Colonel Colonel feel about this, especially as he was the Mole's commanding officer?)
(2) For the last month, before this case blew up, it had been on the cards that I would be giving a lecture on sexual abuse of children (This was the topic of my Ph.D.) to the Dutch Reformed Church Ladies Society and invited guests - those interested. Mrs. Colonel was not involved, but she informed me that she had discussed this (which had nothing to do with her) with an uninvolved Dominee, and they had decided that it was not a good idea to have a lecture of this kind open to the general population of Oshakati. Have the lecture by all means (Thanks a lot!), but restrict the audience to those directly involved - presumably including her. (The woman who was co-ordinating the lecture phoned me in quite a distressed state, and asked me please not to take any notice of Mrs. Colonel, whom she described as an interfering old busy-body poking her head into things which were none of her business. A good solid woman - the organiser!)
(3) Could I please tell her husband, Colonel Colonel, that she has special needs, and that he should pay more attention to her. Please could I go in 'civvies' so he wouldn't realise that I was only a Captain, so that he might obey my directives.
Mrs. Colonel said that she had become aware that there had been an incident the previous year when the Mole had flicked the bra-strap of one of the Standard Seven (fourteen year old) girls in the choir. This had all been hushed up or laughed off, but Mrs. Colonel was furious that she had not been informed at the time. She reported having told her husband; "You'd better tell me all you know about it or - I have a Confidential Security Clearance (She does occasional typing for the army) - I'll go and draw his file and read all about it myself." How long would she retain her Confidential Security Clearance if I reported what she had just told me? Was it not my duty to report this? Who would believe me? Everyone! What would be done? Nothing!
I told Kevin Holmes in conversation. "The woman's gone raving mad," he decided.
I got rid of her, I think, tactfully. I saw her on Wednesday afternoon, supposedly to try (tactfully) to stop her saying slanderous things about most of the medical staff in the village. She was suspicious of me, and without any insight, so I think the only course of action left open to us is to get our OC to confront her. He is prepared to stand up for us if his unit is slandered. He supported me quite aggressively about the Mole being a medical patient and that we should assess him and decide on a management plan. (And then hang him!)
At the end of the session, as I was showing her out of the office, I told her that I would be out of Oshakati for the next two weeks as I would be at smaller operational bases, and she said that she might not be alive when I got back. (That would solve a lot of problems! There's not much anyone can do to help her!)
Then she got my rank wrong, called me 'Lieutenant', than corrected herself and called me 'Captain', and then said that she didn't pay attention to rank, but she looked at the person within. She hates national servicemen (Second Lieutenants more than Full Lieutenants) and national serviceman don't get higher than Lieutenants. I think she had actually tried to insult me. While forcing her out, ten minutes into the time of my next patient, she said that it was totally wrong for the Mole to have been relieved of his post while the boy was allowed to remain at the school (after a lot of begging and pleading from the boy's father). It was unfair that he should be treated more leniently 'just because he is under age' (at fourteen years?). I didn't fight her on that one, and she left, which ends her involvement in the story - almost.
The boy, whom the Dominee considers to have some criminal tendencies, had been pretty much ignored. In the early stages, when it was uncertain whether the Mole was a pastoral or a medical case, I suggested to the involved Dominee, Loki Bouwer that we psychologists should see the boy. "Yes," he agreed. "That might be a good idea." They had done nothing for him themselves.
After having completed all the documentation on the Mole, and having him in transit, I was relieved that I had done my part and that the ball was now in someone else's court ("Someone else's problem!"). The case was now quite common knowledge in the town, thanks partly to the `well intentioned' actions of Mrs. Colonel. I leaned around Kevin's door. "The patient (We all knew which patient) has given signed permission for me to discuss his case with involved medical personnel of Sector 10," I told him. "Do you think I should issue my notes as a circular?"
Medic Willie phoned me and suggested that we move the Mole's car away from the barracks where it might be vandalised by people who didn't like him. We don't have cars of our own, but now we had one. We fantasised about going to the Etosha game reserve this weekend, and maybe Ruacana the next. Kevin teased me of sending the patient down to 1 Mil just so that we could get the use of his car. (We didn't actually touch the car!)
Within the next week, Mrs. Colonel was once again hysterical, and this time Charl was approached, but I was briefly told the details. Her daughter told her that the national serviceman who had been baby-sitting the children had been standing over her breathing heavily when she woke up at night. I'm sceptical that, with all the reaction to child molestation being so fresh in everyone's mind, anyone would do such a thing. Could he have been looking for the same sympathy and treatment that she had dished out on the Mole, or was the incident a product of Mrs. Colonel's imagination? I don't have any more details.
I don't know what finally happened to the Mole. My involvement finished when he was sent down to 1 Military Hospital. I don't know whether the police were ever involved, but I doubt that they would have been. The boy and his father would not lay changes, as they wanted the whole affair hushed up - especially the father. None of the medical staff would lay charges. The Officer Commanding was Colonel Colonel, and I doubt that Mrs. Colonel would let him. Apart from the `suffering' detailed above, I suspect that the Mole got away with it. The story would have been far less memorable for me if it had not been for Mrs. Colonel's involvement.
CAPTAIN J.P. PRETORIUS - EVERYONE'S BEST FRIEND
A corporal from the 7 SAI contingent at 10 Pantser was referred to me because he was in a state of anxiety, and threatening to harm his troops, one or two of whom were giving him a hard time. He also had a whole series of complaints about it being impossible to be a Christian in the army, and that the army was treating him as a number, and not as a human being with needs and feelings. He also complained about the punishments which were being meted out; people were being given sandbag PT, including corporals, and he and three other corporals had been made to pull a 'Buffel' around in the hot sun, for having gone to shower before they were allowed to on a free Sunday.
Following my assessment of him, I wrote a letter saying that the Corporal should not be used in a leadership position because he did not have the inner resources or human relationship skills that the job demanded (which I cleared with him before sending it off!). The recommendation was followed, and he was made a guard commander at one of the gateways into the white compound of Oshakati, where his functioning improved. I asked the Dominee to talk to him about the religious conflict and malpractices in the unit. He reported back that the Dominee had concluded with; "Yes, we must both go away and think about this," but offered no action.
A week later, an ops. medic serving with the 7 SAI contingent of 10 Pantser brought in a patient (not strictly by the book), but whom he had seen being victimised for no apparent reason. He was being picked on by his corporal, who was being urged on by the Staff Sergeant. The Staff Sergeant had recently thrown the soldier's rifle into his face, leaving cuts and bruises. I did a full clinical assessment and felt that I could trust the soldier.
I wrote a letter back to the unit, following the usual procedure, in which I mentioned that the soldier wanted to lay charges of assault against the Staff Sergeant - just so that such a charge could not be suppressed at a very low level. I then added an observation:
"Psychological services have received reports from several members of the 7 SAI contingent at 10 Armour, of the use of sandbag PT and towing of 'Buffels' being used as punishments. It is suggested that such complaints might be investigated, as such activities can lead to decreased morale amongst the 7 SAI contingent, which could be counterproductive for the unit's functioning." (Which is being quite careful to indicate what might be going on, but careful not to make direct accusations.)
I put the distribution list to the OC of 10 Pantser (overall), the chaplain, the social worker, and the referring doctor, who hadn't really referred him, but I phoned and asked for his co-operation. The doctor knew about the man, and shared my opinion that he was being abused.
I arranged that the ops. medic deliver those copies by hand. With the soldier still under his escort, the ops. medic delivered the letter to the OC, who opened it and read it in front of him. He spoke to the soldier, and said that he could indeed press charges of assault against the staff sergeant, but that it would probably take several months to come to anything. The OC, Commandant Du Toit(I would like to pay tribute to this Commandant, whom I believe was a good and fair man, who would not tolerate injustices in his unit, (even if perpetrated against national servicemen!). I had a great deal of respect for him.
He was a big, soft spoken man, with something hippo-ish about his face. His front top teeth protruded slightly, in an inverted 'V', making him look slightly like the Afrikaans TV character 'Sarel Seemonster'. He had a desk made out of light coloured wood - pine coloured, but probably a local wood - decorated with an Owamboland palm tree type design. This was probably made by a local craftsman. They were certainly popular at that time.), offered the alternative that he would give the Staff Sergeant a direct order not to assault any troops, and if the Staff Sergeant transgressed this, the OC would charge him with assault himself, and with disobeying a lawful command. The OC told the soldier to bring other such incidents to his attention.
The soldier left feeling that the situation was under control, and might be satisfactorily resolved. On his way back to his tent he bumped into one of his fellow soldiers, who had a black eye, and was holding his crumpled glasses. He had just had his rifle thrown in his face by the same Staff Sergeant. Following his instructions, my patient took his friend along to see the OC, who blew his top! (I heard all this later.)
Earlier in the week, I returned from a staff visit to Eenhana. I was tired, and wearing my sunglasses and sitting in the right passenger seat of a Unimog. We passed through the main gate and the corporal [mentioned first in this story] saw me and came over to chat. We were stopped over the inspection pit.
The corporal told me that he was feeling better now, and that he would soon be going back to his old job ('Oh,' I ask, eyebrows raised. I had written a full psychological report to get him out of his old job.) He assured me that he wanted to go back to his old job. He had spoken to his Captain, who had read my report. The Captain had apparently said that the person described in my report was not the corporal that he, the Captain, knew, and he, the Captain, had known the Corporal a lot longer than I had. (There wasn't enough information in the report for it to be seen as a personality description; all it contained was a diagnosis of a presenting problem and a recommendation.)
The Captain had suggested to the Corporal that he should not see me again, and the Corporal agreed, and wished to cancel our appointment scheduled for that Friday. I was irritated at the supposed speedy recovery of the Corporal. I hadn't expected this, and it made me look as though I didn't know what I was talking about. The Corporal, who had been so desperate two weeks previously, and threatening to shoot his own troops, was now calmly telling me that I had over reacted.
A paradox of being a psychologist in the army is if we focus attention on the problem and get it sorted out, then arm chair critics casually observe that the person didn't commit suicide; so we were over reacting. But if the person had committed suicide, then we would be called upon to answer for why we had not done enough. It must be better to be cautious, even though we always seem to be making fools of ourselves. So I complied, and cancelled his appointment.
At the Friday's order group, Commandant Potgieter announced that there had been a complaint against the psychology department from a Captain Pretorius of the 7 SAI contingent of 10 Pantser. We were asked to 'speak to the man', but the Commandant did not seem to want any explanation himself.
Major Kevin Holmes gave me some background with his light-hearted 'someone's in trouble and it isn't me' manner. Captain Pretorius had apparently come to the AG Complex, where we were based, and had gone to the Commandant to ask to see us - following military etiquette, by approaching other unit personnel through their officer commanding. The Commandant had dismissed him offhandedly, telling him that the psychologists were too busy to see him then. Charl and I would arrange to speak to the man. Apparently, according to Kevin, the man was upset that the report had gone to the OC of 10 Pantser (in accord with the channels of communication), and that the grievances that I had mentioned had been dealt with, and someone had already been sent back to the 'States' to await a Court Marshal.
I believe that part of our work as psychologists involves trying to prevent problems from developing, not just trying to cure problems that are already serious. We have not yet met Captain Pretorius at the time of writing (07/09/1987).
The next part of the story happened at a party given by Charl de Wet, to which I was invited, but I didn't go because I had developed a mild case of German Measles [above]. This party was attended by most of the SAMS Officers from the AG Complex, and the chief chaplain of the Sector, Dominee Loki Bouwer. Ds. Bouwer is new to his position, having been here for only about six months. Before that he was the chaplain of 7 SAI - spot the connection! He, of course, happens to be close personal friends with Captain 'J.P.' Pretorius, and he teased Charl mercilessly (as is apparently his way) about how could we (me) say such nasty things about someone as nice, amenable, etc. as old 'JP'?
JP got such a boost, that he (or his initials) have become a household name amongst the medical staff of the AG Complex, and we await meeting him as a long lost friend whom we have grievously wronged through our ignorance of the man's limitless virtue. How could I accuse such a person? (I hadn't!) Shame on me!
"SPEAK INTO THE MICROPHONE"
One Monday evening I was feeling tired but restless, so I took 15mg of Normison, and went to bed with the expectation of a good night's sleep. At around two in the morning, one of the medics from the sickbay knocked on my door, and asked me to come as someone was about to commit suicide. I was instantly awake - does Normison come with a guarantee? - and pulled on my uniform (or was it shorts and a T-shirt?) and followed the medic. In the ambulance we drove to where the chap was; at the signal regiment within Oshakati.
We arrived at the entrance to find a small party of people waiting for us - no one in authority, no one armed. Two of the men climbed aboard, and we drove back to the sickbay.
I took them through to an office to use as an interview room. One was a sleek dark youth of about twenty. The other was blond, and younger looking, and tearful. The dark haired chap was the one who had made the para-suicide attempt. He had decided to `end his life', he said, and had climbed into his sleeping bag with his rifle, and had fired two shots, neither of which had hit him (nor apparently anyone else in the tent camp!).
I tried to pin down what the cause had been for him to make this decision now, but all I could get was accusations of NCO's assaulting him and others. They said that the Commandant had suppressed charges of assault, and said that he, the Commandant, would deal with the matter himself. Then they accused the Commandant himself of hitting his troops. (After the 'J.P.' issue, what could I do but act very carefully? Clearly it would be inadvisable to make anything that can be seen as an accusation.)
I tried to pin them down as to what had happened that evening, to lead to a para-suicidal attempt. (Surely in two shots he would have at least managed to injure himself if he had really wanted to do so?) From them I got the information that they had been playing cards or snooker, and this had led to an argument. I could get nothing more from either of them as to what the argument had been about.
It was about 3 a.m. by this time. I arranged for them to spend the night on the ward, and I would see them both the next morning. Their OC was there when I had finished with them, and he asked about them. I said that I was admitting them and would see them again the next morning when they had calmed down. No one questioned that the blond lad was also admitted, although he had not made any para-suicide attempts.
Next day I found that there was a ruling by the OC of Sector 10 that anyone discharging a firearm within the compound would face an automatic court marshal. The dark haired chap was in trouble! That morning I questioned the two of them again, separately, and still 'They did not want to talk about' the argument that had prompted the para-suicide attempt. I arranged for the blond lad to be discharged. He became distressed and angry about this. He seemed to think that something should be done about him, and he said that he was expecting to be posted to some remote listening post 'with a radio that didn't even work', but then he decided that such a posting might be better than staying in the base with all the people who were picking on him.
The dark haired chap was more emotionally stable than the blond lad, in spite of his para-suicide attempt. I was concerned at the likelihood of his being victimised at his unit when discharged. I didn't have much respect for his OC, and had heard stories from other sources of maltreatment of conscripts at the signals unit.
One of the nursing sisters at the sickbay has a friend or relative at the same unit who complained of being assaulted, and the charges were suppressed, and the relative was transferred out to the bush for the rest of his national service. This was apparently preferable to him than staying at the base camp. After the 'JP' story, I was being careful, but Kevin Holmes told me that the nursing sister would be very disappointed if I didn't take the matter further; At last, a champion of the underdog? PF ethos: See no evil, Hear no evil, and don't get caught doing any evil!
Plan of action at the time: "So what I'm going to do is to make an appointment with Ds. Loki Bouwer and ask his advice on how to handle complaints of assaults. Swallow my pride if I want to actually help anyone?" Result: I did see Dominee Bouwer, and discussed my dilemma with him, hoping to gain an alliance with him, but I don't remember anything significant coming of that meeting,. I still felt justified in drawing attention to reported cases of abuse of national servicemen, whose channels of redress were so easy to block.
The dark haired lad had an attitude which I imagined would draw negative attention to him. Challenging authority is dangerous in a total military institution like his unit, and he probably was a trouble maker. The Afrikaans phrase is that he had a '"moer my" gesig' - a '"clobber me" face'.
He was already in trouble with his automatic court marshal. I decided to refer him down to 1 Mil for the nebulous 'observation', which truthfully we could not carry out in Sector 10. I wrote a detailed report to 1 Mil (Psychiatry) giving the background to the case.
I had a backlash of protest from the blond lad when he found out about this; he wanted to be sent back to `the States' as well. I had to warn him officially that any problem behaviour from him might be dealt with disciplinarily, as I found in him no severe psychological problems.
Victor, the radio operator from the AG Complex, somehow got himself involved in the case, and told me of arrangements he was making in my name to get the blond lad transferred, which I had to squash immediately.
A couple of days later, when the dark lad was safely in 1 Mil, Charl and I paid a staff visit to the Signal Unit at Sector 10. The OC told us the results of his investigation; that the two had been playing a competitive game, and someone had overheard them agree that the loser would give the winner a 'blow job'. The OC found this very amusing, making a gesture which he described (in English) as 'speak into the microphone!' The dark lad had won, and he and the blond lad had disappeared off somewhere and reappeared a few moments later, with the blond lad in a state of distress. It was presumed that the dark lad wanted to collect his prize, but the blond lad had been unwilling.
I don't know anything further about developments with that case. I would have been informed if the dark haired lad had been returned to the border while I was there.
"I had several patients at different times who reported being abused or assaulted by NCO's in their units, and finding that their channels of redress were blocked when they attempted to complain, and that they were victimised for having complained. I felt that it was my duty to attempt to do something about such allegations, which, by the nature of the position of the psychologist, I was not able to investigate myself. Such an investigation could lead to prophylactic intervention, which could prevent possible suicides and human suffering which might only reach psychologists a long time later. Where the allegations appeared to have some substance (i.e. were confirmed with collateral information, and were not seen to be a function of the patient's psychopathology or personality), I wrote a letter informing the Officer Commanding of the allegations which were being made within his unit, and sent copies to the Social Work Officer and Medical Officer allocated to that unit, as well as the Unit Chaplain. This was in accordance with the channels open to me, as I understood them. Such information was received positively, and acted upon by most of the OC's, Social Workers and Medical Officers."
- extract from my report on my border duty
Published: 1 July 2000.
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