Hope for the Military’s Sexual Assault Problem

During the Vietnam War, the zeitgeist spewed venom toward the active-duty soldiers (many of whom were drafted) due to negative perceptions of the war. Jane Fonda and other celebrity activists hurled insults at the broken men for travesties they may or may not have committed and for a war they certainly did not begin.

Today’s Americans have learned their lessons from Vietnam. It is possible to not approve of a war and some of the misconduct which has marred it, but support the men and women fighting it. We’ve realized something: No one asks a soldier’s opinion on the justness of war before they deploy. Their duty comes before their personal convictions. In fact, this dual appreciation of soldiers and disgust toward the wars they fight evolved into a strange place: a bit of hero worship. Every soldier is considered a hero; together, they are “fighting for their country” and making sacrifices beyond any civilian. And partly this is true; soldiers must put their country and its demands ahead of themselves.

But this hero worship has created a mythical soldier—someone of unquestionable moral fortitude and courage, who always serves selflessly. In reality, these soldiers are just people. Sinful, complicated people. Expecting perfection from them is reckless.

Recently, the Department of Defense released its 2012 report on sexual assault within the military. Despite a decades’ long “no tolerance policy,” it estimates 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred within the year—that’s a 35% jump since 2011.

The military has a laundry list of outrageous stories that identify a culture of sexual violence.

One unnamed soldier found guilty of rape (nonconsensual sodomy) was given a “nonjudicial punishment,” which could be a reduction in rank, a fine, restriction of liberty for a period of time, or extra duty. To put it plainly: This person raped a fellow soldier, was found guilty, and wasn’t given any jail time.

Recently, Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, head of the Air Force’s branch of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, was arrested for forcibly groping a woman in a parking lot.

An Air Force general inexplicably overturned a jury’s rape conviction.

An Army sergeant first class, part of the sexual assault response team, faces a litany of sexual abuse charges, including allegations that he forced a woman into prostitution.

Despite media attention on these specific reported cases, some of the worst cases may be unknown. Abysmal reporting rates show that the culture of sexual violence is supported by victim shaming. Of the 26,000 assaults, less than 13% were reported (3,374). That compares to a civilian reporting rate of 46%. The victims have a very valid fear: 67% of those who chose to report received some sort of retaliation.

And yet, in all this darkness, there’s a bit of light. The hero myth is crumbling. President Obama, Secretary of Defense Hagel, and several congressional leaders have heatedly addressed the issue and called for reform. Promising bipartisan legislation is in the works. Traditional news media and blogs have all covered the story relentlessly.

Acknowledging that the military has a deeply entrenched problem of sexual assault does not make you anti-solider or anti-military; in fact, I would argue it makes you pro-soldier and pro-military. Dismissing this epidemic puts you at the back of a long line of enablers who ignored the problem and allowed our service men and women to suffer silently. Seeing our soldiers through the lens of their humanity opens our eyes to all their potential: perpetrator, victim, dutiful servant, and sometimes, hero.

About Lauren Rambo

Lauren Rambo is a wife, mom, and redheaded stepchild living in Louisville, Kentucky. She blogs at South by Style.

  • Susan Gerard

    They need to stop allowing the fox to guard the hen house. Civilians may not understand the military, but we understand rape.

  • Esther Starr

    There are two glaringly obvious actions we could take that would drastically reduce the number of these cases but…. ah, forget it, it’s not worth yelling in the wind.

  • Susan Gerard

    The problem is not women in the military. That is just one opportunity vs. another. The problems: the male attitude that women exist for their gratification, and the lack of self discipline (to the point of blaming the victim for their own reprehensible actions). Should the woman groped in the parking lot not have been there? This has nothing to do with the military; it has everything to do with the man.

  • Esther Starr

    It’s clear that something is broken in this system, allowing brutal men to perpetrate these violent crimes in the first place and then get away with them when they do. So I agree that disciplinary crackdowns and screenings are in order. However, we need to think carefully about sending our own daughters, and frankly, sons too, into this kind of an atmosphere. More and more, the military is becoming a place where I wouldn’t even want my son to be, despite the fact that I have nothing in principle against male soldiers.

  • Esther Starr

    But you’re also showcasing another problem, which is that feminists view a military career as some sort of wonderful “privilege” or “opportunity” for women. This will probably lead to women’s being forced to register for the draft when they get their license, just like young men do. Now that the ban on women in combat has been lifted, there’s no legal reason not to force women to register. That’s probably not a big deal for you though.

  • Susan Gerard

    Oh, please, Ester. That’s not the issue. The are women in the military. The question at hand is “how do we deal with the violence against women occurring within this situation”?

  • Susan Gerard

    I have two sons. While I don’t want to place them in harm’s way, I would not oppose a draft of all youth, as they do in Israel. There are women in the Israeli forces. Maybe with combat training, they will better be able to defend themselves against predators while we work at this problem.

  • Esther Starr

    The soldiers being abused in these cases have had combat training. They were still abused. Even the strongest women are weaker than strong men, and many homosexual cases have occurred when the victim is sleeping. I simply can’t imagine any circumstances under which it’s wise to send, in particular, young women into such a situation. I believe in encouraging young people to learn self-defense skills no matter what career they choose. But why drastically raise the odds that they’ll be abused in the first place?

  • Susan Gerard

    Esther, we don’t know if the woman in the parking lot was even a soldier (since no news outlet said she was, I’ll assume she was a civilian). The woman in the second case was a guest in his home; no details re: level of training. There aren’t such details in the third case either. Where are you getting your information?

    What shall we do, live in a segregated society like the muslims? Maybe women shouldn’t go out unaccompanied by men, and should cover themselves as well. The answer is not to segregate women! It is to teach men that women are not on this earth to fulfill their desires for power/pleasure. That starts at home (where there are wives, sisters and daughters who are also being abused) and continues in society.

  • Esther Starr

    I was speaking about the cases where soldiers have abused fellow soldiers.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    There has always been MUCH wrong with the comportment of some of our men in the military. They are sinful humans who many times live very undisciplined lives, tossing all propriety, decorum and decency to the wind. Consider all the women who have become pregnant by our men in uniform (while out of uniform) around the globe – women and children who have been left behind and neglected by reckless, uncaring men. Women have NO place in the military for MANY reasons, including the physiological fact that they are born with 50% less brute strength. Any person with right reasoning skills, afforded only by Jesus’ guiding wisdom, knows women do NOT belong in the military. These days with God being kicked to the curb, in our culture, ensures men will live without any sexual restraints. Why would we expect otherwise? When my father was a Marine stationed in the Mediterranean, he put himself in charge of ensuring all the other men made it back on to their ship each night that they were allowed the freedom to go on shore. He was the only man (the only true gentleman aboard) who did not allow himself to go get drunk, have free sex with indiscriminate women, to cavort about as if having personal boundaries of common decency and caring for others above one’s self was insignificant.

  • Esther Starr

    Agreed Ginny. This isn’t just about sexual assault, it’s also about promiscuity in general. Even consensual sex is an obscenity in military contexts, and when babies result (have we forgotten where babies come from??) it’s nothing less than a mess. The fact that God created women to be able to bear children should be a neon sign making it blatantly obvious that they were not created to be warriors.

  • Susan Gerard

    Ooooh. So you answer specific questions with “other data”. Not a favored way to build up credibility.

  • Esther Starr

    No, I was trying to clear up a misunderstanding. I thought we were talking about the same thing when we were talking about “sexual assault in the military.” I see now that you were just pointing to the cases where soldiers have assaulted civilians. There, I don’t have anything to add except that the men should face justice. But I was pointing out that such men are also perpetrating crimes on other soldiers. Moreover, the fact that we have criminals willing to do this to civilians OR other soldiers roaming free in the military should make us think twice about sending daughters and sons into that environment.

  • tedseeber

    And into this mix, the Obama Administration has thrown homosexual soldiers into single gender barracks.

    Yeah, this will end well.

  • tedseeber

    54% of the victims of sexual assault in today’s military are men.

    I agree with you.

  • tedseeber
  • tedseeber

    Single gender regiments and a regulation requiring female soldiers to always be armed would be a great start.

    And for gender- I include all 9 currently recognized federal genders.

  • Susan Gerard

    By “these cases”, do you mean the cases in the post above? No, wait, you mean “different cases”.

  • Esther Starr

    “One unnamed soldier found guilty of rape (nonconsensual sodomy) was given a ‘nonjudicial punishment,’ which could be a reduction in rank, a fine, restriction of liberty for a period of time, or extra duty. To put it plainly: This person RAPED A FELLOW SOLDIER, was found guilty, and wasn’t given any jail time.”

    That was one of the ones listed right here. See the Pentagon’s official report for the rest. Try 26,000 MILITARY VICTIMS in the last year:

    http://rt.com/usa/hagel-military-pentagon-sexual-964/

  • Esther Starr

    Oh yes, and if you want stats on women alone, try 50% harassed and 25% assaulted:

    http://rt.com/usa/sexual-military-reports-assault-962/

  • Susan Gerard

    ????? What is this comment about? What no -woman- should see? Or the fact that violence against women in the military should stop, as the above post said?

  • Esther Starr

    Yes, the story I linked and quoted from is about women being ASSAULTED in the military. Did you even read the story? The woman’s quote was about being assaulted. Reading comprehension…

  • julia brown

    Cℴltℴn. if yℴu, thℴught Christℴph℮r`s cℴmm℮nt is shℴcking… ℴn sunday I bℴught a gr℮at Jaguar E-typ℮ sinc℮ I b℮℮n ℮arnin $6658 this last 5 w℮℮ks and ℴv℮r t℮n-grand this past-munth. withℴut a dℴubt it’s my favℴurit℮-wℴrk I hav℮ ℮v℮r had. I b℮gan this ℮ight mℴnths/agℴ and practically instantly startad bringin in ℴv℮r $86 p℮r/hr. I us℮ this w℮b-sit℮……….. Fℴx85.ℂℴm

  • Frank Elliott

    There have always been gay soldiers; they defended your right to be a
    Christianist ass.

  • tedseeber

    I remember being a teenage and 20 something heterosexual, are you telling me that for some mystical reason homosexuals have more control? Especially given the prevalence of both homosexual and heterosexual rape *already* in existence in the military?

    I may be an ass- but you are insulting my intelligence.

  • Frank Elliott

    There is none to insult Ted. The military is overwhelmingly male. Hence, males are the primary victims. Very few females are raped in men’s prisons.

  • tedseeber

    That isn’t an excuse for it being a bad idea.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X