Local activist earns Leader of the Year Award
By Nick Walden / Towns Correspondent
Kate Weber, 39, of Rohnert Park, was excited when she was told that she was going to be named the 2013 California Woman Veteran Leader of the Year. Weber knew receiving the award would help with her fight to give a voice to women in the military, both active and discharged, that have gone through what she has.
Weber is a former Army soldier who was raped by a senior officer while stationed in Germany in 1993. That singular event changed her life. The brutal incident resulted in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which she has fought for years, damage to her back along with a quiet release from the military in 1995 without her assailant being charged.
Her recognition from Cal Vet Women Veterans as a Veteran Leaders is a result of the countless hours she has put in to give a voice to women and men in uniform who have been raped or sexual assaulted along with changing the systems related to sexual violence.
She does it to help those in need and also as a way to cope with what happened to her two decades ago. “I’m sticking my hand in the foxhole and saying, ‘Here, I will help you’ to anyone who needs help,” she said.
Weber has been the featured speaker at over 100 events discussing sexual assault in the military over the past 6 years, including a panel discussion at Hastings Law School.
She has also collaborated with civilian and military leaders to develop effective training modules for active duty personnel, educated active duty military about rape and Military Sexual Trauma at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Beale Air Force Base and developed the Tri-County Veterans’ Collaborative in Sonoma County which provides services and resources for veterans.
“The estimates were that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2012, which is up from 19,000 in 2010 despite everything the military claims it is doing to prevent it. I see the system as broken,” said Weber. “Too many women aren’t even using their benefits and getting the help they need because they are afraid to go to a VA hospital after what happened to them in the military.”
She noted numerous cases of rape occurring in VA hospitals and centers around the country have done nothing to erase those fears.
“There are people that I know out there and stuff is still happening to them and it needs to be stopped.”
Weber was also a part of the documentary, The Invisible War, an Oscar-nominated investigative documentary about rape in the U.S. Military. She has spoken multiple times prior to screenings about her own personal experience including at the national conference for the National Association of the Commissions on the Status of Women and Girls.
The award was presented at the 2013 Women Veterans Leadership Conference in San Diego over the Sept 25 weekend.
Weber currently counsels military sexual assault victims and works with two non-profit organizations, Protect Our Defenders and the Military Rape Crisis Center. She will be hosting a luncheon to honor women veterans on Sunday, Oct 20 at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building and will also be taking part in the Feminist Lecture Series at Sonoma State University with a presentation on November 7.
“A lot of my growth and what fills my cup, so to speak, is reaching out to people who know someone who is suffering and then they can pass the information on to that person that needs it,” Weber said.
The now re-married mother of two, with four kids in her home, is in a much better place than she was just a few years ago; noting how she had hit rock bottom and probably a lot of people wouldn’t even recognize her today. She has lost the weight that she gained “to try and hide myself and be less of a target for rape” and has found her voice along with a desire to speak out and create change to a broken system.
“I can’t imagine something stopping me,” she said. “This is just too important to be ignored.”