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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - Unequal Treatment

z028 Riley

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The briefing room was nearly overflowing with a specific set of SGC personnel: women. Major Carter let them mingle for a few minutes, noting that despite the reports she and the General had gotten about issues with several of the male Specialists, both Kyria and Olivia seemed to be the center of social interaction in the cramped room. Men. Carter grinned to herself and made her way up to the podium.

"All right, ladies, could everyone take a seat? We're about to begin." Her voice cut through the din of conversation and the room quickly sorted itself out from gossiping clusters to neat rows of Air Force and civilian personnel. Carter motioned one of the officers on duty for the seminar to begin passing out the binders down the rows.

She cleared her throat, "Okay. Most of you have been through this before, but the General and I think it's a good idea to have this talk at least once a year. For our new recruits, welcome to the Women's Special Briefing on SGC and Mission Protocol. This seminar was developed to address the specific needs of female personnel involved in the Stargate Program."

She paused, letting that sink in for the newcomers. "We'll be covering everything from what to pack for extended or inconveniently timed missions to how to deal with gender-biased cultures to rape." The levity in the room had died down somewhat and took on an uncomfortable darkness at the last statement. "While this is not intended to scare you, there are real and present dangers through the Stargate for women in specific and the SGC wants to make sure that every member of an SG team and every woman here on the base is best prepared to deal with those dangers and challenges." She glanced down at her notes and took the remote for the viewscreen behind her.

"Now, if you will all open your binders to the first section you will see a mission report from P3X-592, one of the early SG-1 missions to a planet called Simarka by the natives. Take a moment to read over the report, and then I'd like suggestions on how you would have handled the situation and what I could have done better."

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Olivia read though the mission statement quickly. It was clearly abridged, and just as clearly written by Major Carter. To her, the answer was obvious, but then, it was the choice she'd made so many years ago. "I think I would have played along," she said when Carter looked around, seeking an answer. Someone made a scoffing noise, and Olivia fought not to grit her teeth. "Knowing that my team was out there, coming to save me, I'd play along and wait for my chance."

"No, no... no." The woman speaking up was shorter than Olivia, but she was heavier than her just from sheer muscle mass. "Honestly, fighting back every step of the way is the better way. Giving in just lets them walk all over you."

"But in this case, doing so would have made it much easier to slip away, and the fight still could have occurred." Olivia had turned to talk to her. "Sure, you'd have to cook and clean-"

"And get raped," the woman said.

"Maybe not," Olivia retorted. "If you were smart and careful, you could get around that."

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Kyria's voice cut into the argument. "I'd read his mind, find his greatest weaknesses, and then depending on what they were, either use force or deception. With deception I would try to keep the situation as calm and non-violent as possible while preserving myself. With violence I would either take him and any troublesome guards out of the equation, or use the cheiftain as a hostage for escape. It would depend on my observation of the culture and amount of danger that would put other lives in." Her eyes flicked over the room, taking in the uncomfortable shuffling of some of the women. And the stares.

She shrugged. "That's not an option for most people, I know. I'm stronger than most men and faster too. I can also fake being dead by simply not breathing for while." She glanced at the muscled woman, "But fighting first, always fighting? That's only going to get more people hurt. Suppose he'd accepted the trade, or a different one your teammates had in the works? Now you've put them in danger, too. And the other women who would have been beaten for letting you escape? Are you helping them by being belligerent or just salving your own pride?"

The airwoman's face puffed up, "So I should just let them walk all over me because I don't have your weird powers? Dress me up like some doll and do whatever the want with me? No way!"

Major Carter cut in before the discussion devolved into an out-and-out argument. "Well, that's certainly a unique option, Specialist Donnighal. Unfortunately I mean that. Lt. Anders, you'd want to fight. So did I." She paused for a moment, "The best thing I probably could have done was stay put until I knew what my team was doing, or until nightfall when I would have been raped. There are lines you should never let someone cross if you can avoid it, but until you hit one of those in a situation like this it is best to stay put and learn everything you can. Most societies that are highly gender regulated are also ritualistic. Learning taboos and how to use or avoid them may save your life or the lives of your teammates. There are some scenarios in with the Simarka folder; I'd like you all to take some time at the end of the seminar to fill out what you would do in those circumstances and why as an exercise."

She clicked the button on the viewscreen and brought up a picture of a bustling pre-industrial city with a handsome man stand in front. "Now, on to something more pleasant if no less dangerous: fraternization with native populations." The Major let herself smile at the whispers that sped through the room. "Since the inception of the SGC there has been a shift in the types of SG teams created and the missions they are assigned. Many of you will be staying on a single planet for days, weeks, even months, to help with trade negotiations or scientific research. Standard military procedure applies on these missions, but the SGC has to be a bit more practical than the rest of the military. You'll meet guys, you'll like guys. What we need to talk about and set ground rules for is what you do then."

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"The first thing to remember is cultural." Carter looked around the room. "There are other groups beside the Simarka who have taboos regarding women. Let's face it ladies, there are a lot of people around the universe who still want to keep us down. The glass ceiling extends off-planet." She paused to let the laughter rise and fall. "Some of you will be meeting known cultures, and you'll be given debriefing on those cultures before you go. But when doing First Contact, you'll be walking blind into a situation. You'll need to assess the situation and decide how to react. You might choose to adapt, or not to. Your commanding officer will likely have his - and that position is all boys at this point - own opinion, and may order you to go against your gut. Again, this is a situational issue, and I can only say, choose as best as you can."

A woman raised her hand and Sam nodded at her. "Are the residents of Simarka the worst you've found?"

"As far as women's rights, yes," Carter replied. "But there is always the chance that you'll land on a planet where women are forced to walk around naked." She held up her hand at the low murmur. "Keep in mind that cultures that oppress women rarely parade them around; they're usually kept cloistered. I just needed to present that possibly to you, in case you find the culture that breaks that inhibition."

"Should we ever pretend to be men?"

"Why don't we always pretend to be them?" another asked.

Carter nodded. "Good questions. First, I'd say that whether to pretend to be a man is up to you. But as for the second... I taught the people of Simarka something by being a woman they couldn't boss around or oppress. I taught their women to try to be more than property. Had I gone in there as Samuel Carter, I would have never had the chance. Part of what we're doing is spreading our culture out there as well. We're a very advanced planet, simply because we've managed to fight off the Goa'uld and keep them from destroying us. Helping all of the universe involves more than trade agreements and mutual defense. It involves spreading equality across the cosmos."

She paused to mark the solemn moment, then smiled. "It seems like a lot, but you have the training, and you'll be fine. And with that, we move on.

"You've met the alien of your dreams, he's interested, you've met the cultural challenges, things are heating up physically. Now what? You need to protect yourself and your planet. One STD that mutates to become airborne could wipe out Earth. For that, you need to know the local diseases and how they're transmitted. Take condoms with you on every mission, even if it's just a couple of hours. You could get stranded and need them, and they might just save the world." A nervous giggle rang out in the room.

"If you do suspect you have an STD... ladies, you cannot fool around with this. You have to tell your CO immediately, as embarrassing as that will be, and he'll call home, as he has to by regulations. After that, standard medical isolation will happen. If there is a local cure, you'll have to take it, no matter what it is, and bring some back with you. The cure, not the disease. That we want to leave off-world. If any of that sounds like too much for you to handle, I suggest you stay out of alien pants, loincloths, etc. Any questions on that?"

There were none, and Carter said, "Moving on to... that time of the month. On a long mission, she will not be your friend."

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Muted laughs and grumbling waved through the room. Carter held up a small green pack. "This is one of the single simplest and useful things you can pack to take with you, even if the mission is only supposed to be a few hours."

She opened it up and laid the contents out on the table next to her: pads, multi-symptom pain relievers, birth control pills, and a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide.

"Now, some people might question the pills in here, but if you need to move the date around on your monthly visitor, estrogen pills are an effective and safe way to do so. Also, the peroxide and painkillers are useful for more than just your period. Definitely worth the little bit of extra weight on your pack."

"Going back for a moment to the cultural differences, many cultures have taboos about menstruating women. So, if you have to let someone in the native population know for some reason, be sure you have some idea how they'll react." She grinned, "And hey, if you are stuck somewhere for a while, usually those customs mean you aren't allowed to work and have your food brought to you. I got an impromptu week vacation on a world called Forseth because of a snowstorm last year."

"Now, bringing that back to Earth, lets talk about how to handle all of these issues with your teammates and commanding officers."

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"Yes, um, I hope I'm not interrupting, but I had this situation arise," a woman near the back of the room.

"By all means," Carter said, smiling. She waved her hand. "Please share."

"I'm with SG-11, and we were deployed to PK3389. My CO is a good commander but not a big touchy-feely guy. I knew that I'd have problems if something came up, so when I was cramping so bad I couldn't walk straight, I told him I had a stomach bug. It was a mistake; he assumed that it was some indigenous bug and I found myself in medical isolation. I had tried to tell him, but he was so freaked it didn't work very well. Then I had to explain to Dr. Frasier what had happened, and then I had to tell my Major anyway, after I'd caused him to abort his mission. I wish I'd just told him and dealt with his discomfort. But he and I had gotten better at communicating since then." Her face was a little red by the time she was done.

"And that's why you all need to be able to tell your commanding officers when there's an issue, even if it's a 'woman's issue,'" Carter said. "Men in general can be terrible wimps about this, but most COs can work through it long enough to get the job done. They may be uncomfortable, but they'll buckle down at do it.

"One way that you can help them is to practice saying it, so that when the time comes, you're not embarrassed and barely able to talk," Carter continued. She looked around at each of the women, her demeanor serious. "A lot of you will get COs that will be able to handle this with complete calm. You'll be practicing for yourself, and for the few that will have issues with it.

"There will be some things that you can't practice. For example, informing your CO that you've been raped will be incredibly difficult," Carter said softly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The room went very silent. "In our culture, by which I mean American, one woman in four will be sexually assaulted in her life. In less socially advanced cultures, that number will be higher. Rape is a very real part some cultures, even acceptable. We consider that to be appalling, but it is normal for them. Your CO will act to keep you safe in that regard, and in such a culture, most would send you right back through the gate and proceed without you or abort and let the General assign an all-male team."


Major Carter paused, looking troubled. "I'm not going to tell you that we haven't had women raped in the course of duty, because we have," she said, swallowing. "I'm not going to tell you that it won't happen, or that it won't happen to you. This is a dangerous job. People get hurt all the time. Your best protection is your head. Listen to what it tells you. And lean on your team. It's not weakness to tell them at they need to buddy up with you. It's not weakness to tell them that this is a dangerous place for you. Your CO is going to want to know about these dangers. Most of them won't know it; that kind of violence isn't common to them and most lack the natural instincts for it.


"In the case of rape-" Carter stopped and cleared her throat. She was serious, very serious, but composed as she continued, "Ideally, you should tell your CO as soon as possible. But if you don't feel comfortable telling him, tell another member of your team. It should be someone who should be able to give you a certain level of support and comfort - whatever that level is, is up to you. It should be someone you trust to talk to, and who can tell your CO for you. He has to know, ladies, so if you can't, you should tell someone who can tell him. It will be hard. But it will be the most important thing you can do, for the mission and for yourself. Healing for yourself begins with being able to talk about it with someone else, preferably a health care professional.

"After your CO knows, he is in charge of determining the next step. He may approach the offender and seek restitution on your behalf, or he may immediately return you home for treatment. They've been given training on this matter, so they have an idea about what to do when it happens. Like we've mentioned, this will be a difficult subject for them. Just remember that they are men, and to try to be a little patient." There was a titter at that, but nothing more.


She looked around the room; as always, this subject was oppressive and occasionally traumtic. Several of the women, and even one of the Specialists, Dr. Jenings-Izumi, looked upset. It was always the same; hardened soldiers had a hard time dealing with this subject. Fortunately, there were no sobbing women today, which was always a sign of a good day. "Let's lighten this up for a moment," Carter said, changing the tone of her voice. "Let's take a short break, move around, stretch and come back to the complicated discusson of relationships between members of StarGate teams." This is always a fun and awkward topic, she thought ruefully to herself.

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While the women were stretching and talking, Carter walked around the room, casually talking with the ones who'd been upset. As usual, Dr. Frasier joined her, milling around to catch the women Carter didn't. They'd done this before, so their dance around the room was casual and effective. The purpose console those most troubled and make sure that they weren't going to have issues on-mission. It was rare, but this talk sometimes scared the women so much it impacted their mission. Carter still remembered the incident caused on PR-9922 when a soldier had misconstrued what was happening and panicked, starting a fire-fight. That'd been a mess.

The next - and last - woman to talk to was Dr. Jenings-Izumi. Carter was curious about her. She'd gotten to talk to Kyria and some of the others, but the quiet historian - quietly called SG21's hot Daniel when Airmen didn't think the brass was listening - had thus far evaded her. Daniel had spoken highly of her, mentioning her grasp of history and intellect. More than that, Carter had seen that he'd been extremely flattered that she'd written a book about his theories. It'd made him borderline insufferable at times, but Carter wouldn't hold it against her. Much.

"Hi, Dr. Jenings-Izumi," Carter said, extending her hand to the other woman.

The doctor jumped and focused on her. As she took her hand, Carter noted the tension in her muscles. Her eyes were also a little too wide, the pupils a little too wide. Uh oh, Carter thought. That's not good. She'd seen this result before, after the section on sexual assault.

"Major Carter," Jenings-Izumi said in a quiet voice. Her smile was slow but, Carter sensed, genuine. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm an admirer of your writing on the mechanics of the StarGate. Very enlightening."

"Even if I did have to put General O'Neill's slang in there so that he could understand it?" Carter asked easily, her mind mulling over how to approach this topic.

Jenings-Izumi laughed, and it changed her face from pale and afraid to lively, at least for a moment. "Well, he seems a very colorful man," she said, smiling warmly.

"He is," Carter agreed, then casually turned so that they were facing away from most of the women. "You seemed pretty shaken by that last segment."

The light faded from that smile and those eyes instantly. "It's a rough subject for anyone," she dithered.

"Yes, it is," Carter agreed, her mind reminding her of the statistics she'd quoted earlier. One in four... "I wanted to chat with you a moment, see if you're okay."

"Fine, thank you," and it was a terrible lie.

Carter assessed quickly. She wasn't crying or having a breakdown, so whatever had happened was probably years old. It didn't even have to be personal trauma; seeing it happen to a friend or a sister could shake up most women. She'd make a note of it in Jenings-Izumi's file. "Good to hear," Carter said. "Ready for the next part?"

"Yeah, thrilled," Jening-Izumi said with a tense smile, and Carter's smile faded a little as she recognized that expression and tone from her personal experiences. I'm going to have to check the rumor mill.

"I think you'll find it helpful," Carter promised before nodding and heading for the podium. "Ladies? Let's get back to it. As promised, we're going to talk about what happens with things heat up between you and teammates.

"We're all grown men and women. We're all very healthy people, in prime shape and of breeding age," Carter said, smiling a little. "We're in mixed company, living in close quarters, fighting together, drawn together by a common purpose. It's only natural that deep feelings will result. And they should. You should trust your teammates, depend on them and be there for them.

"There has to be limits to that relationship," Carter finished firmly. "Sexual relationships within teams create jealousy and secrecy that can destroy the heart of the team. Hiding the relationship from your teammates will create hard feelings, while sharing it with them and expecting them to cover for you is unfair.

"When this happens, you have two choices. The first is the simplest," she continued, meeting the eyes of the women in the room. "Transfer off your team. You'll be free to discreetly continue the relationship with your former teammate. This has complications of integration into a new team, but that's better for some than burning with constant temptation." A hand shot up, and Carter was completely unsurprised to see that it was Jenings-Izumi's dark hand. "Yes, Specialist?"

"What if you can't transfer off your team?" the woman asked, a bit of hesitation as she realized that her impulsive request for attention had gotten her more than she had bargained.

"Well, then all you can do is learn to cope," Carter said, her voice becoming gentle. She was trying not to think of her own issues in that area as she added, "And a request for a transfer can be denied, if you're considered too valuable for your team. In that case, focusing on another person, someone who seems interested in you who isn't on your team, might shift your affections to them. It will be hard, especially if the other person on the team feels the same way you do. My best advice is to be adults and talk about it. Don't play games. Don't jerk them around. Work it out.

"Our counselors can provide advice. There's nothing wrong in falling for teammates," Carter said, softly. "The issue comes in acting on those feelings and degrading the stability of your team. When two people in a team have a closer bond than everyone else, that creates instability. Those two people mean more to each other than the rest of the team means to them. Before anyone can ask, because someone always does, no, forging a sexual relationship between every member of your team doesn't work, in part because most humans are not built for polygamist relationships that are not founded in religious institutions. Finding a team where everyone involved can handle that kind of relationship is going to be so rare as to be completely unlikely. So play it straight, ladies."

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