Rape in The Military

Real Men Don't Rape
Real Men Don't Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious or incapacitated. | Photo: | Rape, Violence, Crime, Sex Offense, Rights, Bully, Assault, Force,

Yes on S. 967

The military is the only employer in the world who gets to tell an employee whether they have been raped or sexually assaulted. That must change.

I have a very deep and abiding respect for our military as an institution. I also respect and appreciate the men and women who freely choose to serve their country, sacrificing much to keep us safe. That said, to borrow and butcher a quote, "[Washington], we have a problem!"

When I heard back in December that the Military Justice Improvement Act passed the Senate on December 19 as part of the 2014 NDAA, I was happy until I was able to confirm that Senator Kirsten Gillebrand's amendment, S.967, was not part of the bill that President Obama signed on December 27.

The fact is, rampant rape and sexual assault within the ranks is a big problem in the military. Currently, rape and sexual assault cases are prosecuted within the military chain of command. According to rainn.org, in the civilian world, a rape happens every 2 minutes and 60% of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported.

In the military, there are three rapes committed every hour. In fact, one in every three women serving in the military has been assaulted or raped. In the military, 86% go unreported, largely because of threats, retaliation and intimidation.

In 2012, in the military, an estimated 26,000 women were raped. Only 3,300 were reported, again because of the culture of intimidation and retaliation that exists in the military. The US military, including all branches, is roughly 1,429,995 strong.

In the civilian world, if a woman reports her rape, and has a rape kit done, there is a chance her attacker serves time and she gets justice. However, 97% of rapists don't spend a single day in jail. {http://www.rainn.org/statistics} Reporting her rape changes a woman's life. In the military, that's a completely different conversation.

As a survivor of rape, I know that rape is not about sex. It involves sex, but it's about power and control. Allow me to share my story, briefly. I was raped by my ex-boyfriend. As you might imagine, as physically painful as it was, the emotional, mental and psychological wounds still persist today, 11 years after the fact, the original crime long since over with. I saw my attacker only twice after I was raped.

In many cases in the military, a victim's attacker is someone with whom they have daily interactions. That person is often above the victim in the chain of command. Add that to the flashbacks that are so common after a rape and it's doubly horrific.

In simple terms, the person who decides how a rape victim's case is handled is very likely also in control of other aspects of the victim's career. Gillebrand's bill would remove rape and sexual assault, among other crimes, from the chain of command.

In the civilian world, nobody involved in your case has any control over your career, never mind having the power to actually decide whether you were raped. In the military, if you report your rape or sexual assault, your case stays within the chain of command.

Essentially, your employer gets to decide whether you, the employee, were, in fact, raped. In the civilian world, unless you experience flashbacks or other after-effects that affect your ability to work and force you to tell your supervisor, the chances of them knowing what happened are slim. In the military, it's guaranteed.

In the military, rape and sexual assault cases are decided within the chain of command; often by people with zero background or experience handling the same. Critics argue that removing these cases from the chain of command would undermine the command structure and disrupt order. I would argue that since rape and sexual assault are a persistent problem within the ranks, keeping their prosecution in the chain of command has failed miserably.

When I heard that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was sponsoring a bill that would allow military attorneys to decide where rape and sexual assault cases are prosecuted, I was equal parts dismayed and delighted. Dismayed because on what planet is it OK to have your boss, who controls assignments, recommendations, and your chances for advancement, deciding whether, where and how your rape case is prosecuted?

I was delighted because this policy change is long overdue. Sadly, not everyone agrees. I assume those who disagree either don't see the problem or are afraid the military's dirty little secret would be brought into the light. I have news for you. It has been. Now the question becomes what to do about it.

Some "good men", maybe even important men who are career military, would be prosecuted for rape and sexual assault. That's not their victim's problem. Like people in the civilian world, if you make your bed, you best lie in it.

In the civilian world, when we hear that someone has been raped, most people, instead of asking how they are doing, ask what they were wearing, doing or drinking. None of that is remotely relevant to the conversation but we try our damnedest to make the victim the problem, not the rapist.

Even more so than in the civilian world, in the military, when someone is a victim of rape, their sexual habits and their sexuality are scrutinized and torn to shreds.

At a recent Article 32 hearing, the rough military equivalent of a grand jury hearing, meant to decide if there's enough evidence to proceed to trial, a rape victim was interrogated by defense attorneys who asked how widely she opened her mouth during oral sex and whether or not she was wearing a bra during the alleged incident. While you might think it's nobody's business not to mention completely irrelevant, and I'd agree with you, it's an effective form of intimidation, a way to get victims to shut up and go away.

As if the humiliation, anger and self-loathing attached to rape aren't enough, the intimidation and retaliation that keeps most from reporting their rape just adds insult to injury. IT HAS TO STOP! It keeps victims powerless and disallows them to heal. Speaking from personal experience, rape turns your life upside down. It makes relationships of every kind, especially intimate relationships, nearly impossible. You trust no one, especially yourself.

Moreover, to what end are thousands of victims discouraged from reporting? Whom are they trying to protect? Opponents of the bill say that military commanders must be allowed to decide these cases and deal with their rank and file. With all due respect, as this has been policy for more than 70 years and rape and sexual assault are still rampant, that policy isn't working. Everybody in the military from the Chair of the Joint Chiefs on down is aware of it, to no avail.

How about educating men to keep their hands and bodies to themselves and maybe provide lessons in self-control as well as "Proper Use of Power and Control 101"?

Again, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the military but like every institution inhabited by mere mortals, it is imperfect and rampant rape within its ranks is one of its imperfections. The good news is, it's fixable.

Rape is an uncomfortable topic, but you know what? It will be until we talk about it. I believe in shining light on things to illuminate and disinfect them, and eliminate the attached shame.

I began my journey to healing this past summer and I've come a long way, having grown by leaps and bounds. Every other victim, whether civilian or military, deserves the same opportunity. However, the fact is, when a victim is strongly discouraged from coming forward, they can't begin to heal.

We live in a culture that still implies that rape is a victim's fault, that the victim somehow brought it on himself or herself. That thinking inhibits healing, especially in the military where perpetrators are often direct reports or in the accuser's chain of command, hence why the UCMJ must be changed.

While the 2014 NDAA did pass with some long overdue changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which, with any luck, might actually be put into action, Senator Gillebrand's bill (S. 967), was removed. It will come up for a vote again in early 2014.

Breaking the silence is the first step toward shattering the culture of rape and sexual assault. Please contact your senators and ask them to support S. 967. Removing the decision to prosecute rape and sexual assault cases, among other cases, from the military chain of command is necessary. The United States Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with your senator's office. Thank you.

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Updated May 22, 2018 6:39 PM UTC | More details


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