Sexual Assaults: Not just a military problem

Almost 90 percent of victims sexually assaulted in the military do not report the crime, so says The Pentagon.

That’s a disturbing number.

New York Senator Gillibrand blames the system. Letting commanders decide which sexual assaults to bring to trial is foolish. She warns: “If the convening authority is the only decision-maker of whether a case goes to trial or proceeds… all that training, all those excellent lawyers and prosecutors don’t make a difference.”

Of course the problems inherent is not specific to the military. It’s a reflection of our society.

While at the Children’s Justice Conference in Seattle this week I met the team of people whose sole job it is to investigate educators who sexually assault children. Currently, they have over a 100 open investigations in the state.

They might have more were it not for the way that sexual assaults are handled. In the State of Washington a sexual assault involving educators has to be reported by the school district’s superintendent.

Yes. That’s right. The superintendent of the school in which the teacher works. The superintendent who will face harsh media scrutiny once the public gets wind of what’s going down. Whether the assault is true or not won’t have any bearing on the PR nightmare that will ensue.

That’s like putting the dog in charge of the hen house. It is going to take a whole lot of integrity and gumption and high moral character for a commander or a superintendent to put themselves in a position for that kind of scrutiny. 

We ought to applaud those who do step forward.

But Senator Gillibrand is absolutely right — this sort of self-reporting is never effective.

By the way, can I just point out that NPR had a momentary lapse of good judgment of reporting on Senator Gillibrand in this particular story. Reporter Ailsa Chang noted that Sen. Reid refers to Senator Gillibrand as the “hottest member” of Congress. What if anything did that have to do with this story?? Chang also referred to Gillibrand’s soft voice turning angry, perpetuating the myth that when women are passionate about a topic then they are angry. If a man were to use the same tone, would Chang have described it as such? Ironic that a report about sexual assaults would be infused with its own disconcerting sexism. Back to the fundamentals of reporting, please, Ms. Chang.

There can be no denying that the military has a problem. It is always troubling whenever you have a culture that makes sexual assault acceptable, or more commonly, overlooked behavior.

But this is a problem prevalent throughout this society we’ve created — one that continually sees through sex-rated lenses. The thing we fail to do is connect the dots. We don’t get how referring to a woman as the “hottest member of Congress” then can lead to a debased culture in which teachers prey upon children, and people assume that if women are in the military they will be sexually-assaulted. 

It does not help when people like retired Army Officer Robert Maginnis, an analyst for the Family Research Council, writes a book suggesting too many women are making false allegations of sexual abuse. According to a report in the Washington Times, Maginnis said: “In the course of conducting interviews with commanders, I heard time and again complaints about female service members making sex-related allegations which proved unfounded. Not only do some women abuse the truth, but it also robs their commanders from more important, mission-related tasks.” 

He goes on to say: “Female service members told me that some women invite problems which lead men on and then result in advances the woman can’t turn off. Too often, such female culpability leads to allegations of sexual contact, assault and then the women feign innocence.”

Read that carefully.

Unfounded does not mean false.

The bulk of sex abuse cases involving children that come across the desk of a child protective service worker will be “unfounded”. That does not mean that the child isn’t being sexually abused. It simply means for a multitude of reasons, officials are unable to gather enough evidence to actually charge a person with a crime.

Of course, if you apply Maginnis’s way of thinking — and a lot of sexual predators do — the child is asking for it.

I’ve seen the interviews in which the predator explains that the child enticed them into assaulting them by

- sitting in their laps

- hugging them

- wearing shorts

- crawling into bed with them

- cuddling

In other words, acting like a child. 

Here’s a truth: Most sex abuse in this nation goes unreported. The bulk of that which does get reported, never goes to court. Very few offenders are ever convicted. 

In other words, you can get away with rape in this country.

People are doing it every single day. Before he set fire to himself and his two boys, Josh Powell, and his father Steven, blamed missing mom and suspected homicide victim Susan Powell for being “sexual”.  This is what is known as re-victimizing the victim. 

And it doesn’t make any difference if the victim is a woman, a man, a girl or a boy, or worse yet, a toddler or infant.

As long as we agree complicity, or overtly as Maginnis is doing, that sexual assaults are the result the victim’s behaviors we all contribute to the problem.

 

 

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • http://twitter.com/karenzach Karen Zacharias

    Apparently I left you all speechless… :)

  • John in PDX

    Just slow.
    1) You think NPR is a unbiased reporting source – same guys who reported that they were using pork rectums for Calamari?
    2) I know your Hubby is a teacher but – the teachers union advocates the ‘no tell’ theory that the Catholic Church used. Just let them resign and they can teach elsewhere.

    • http://twitter.com/karenzach Karen Zacharias

      John:
      Dang. I missed the pork rectum story. And no, I don’t think they are unbiased. I just think they try harder than most. And yes, I agree, the NEA is at fault in this as well. It’s a wide-spread problem, this way of thinking. Good to hear from you.

  • John in PDX
  • AFRoger

    Speech patterns are scary in that the things people let slip are tips of the icebergs in thought patterns. If we could really see inside one another’s minds, I fear society would fly apart in a matter of days. The challenge and the task remains the same as always: to make better, safer, more respectful people.


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