Why are "America's Finest" rampant rapists?
One in five women in uniform says she has been raped by a fellow soldier, although even the Pentagon acknowledges that the number is most certainly higher. Which begs the question: Where are the "heroes"?
UPDATE: "Almost everyone who has served has a story to tell about sexual misconduct in the military," but commanders in charge of deciding which cases to prosecute are afraid of tainting their careers.( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/us/in-a-military-town-calls-grow-to-lift-the-voices-of-sexual-assault-victims.html?hp )
(UPDATE: The aggressive tactics on display in August and September, 2013, are part of a case that has raised alarms about what are called Article 32 proceedings: "For roughly 30 hours over several days, defense lawyers for three former United States Naval Academy football players grilled a female midshipman about her sexual habits. In a public hearing, they asked the woman, who has accused the three athletes of raping her, whether she wore a bra, how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex and whether she had apologized to another midshipman with whom she had intercourse 'for being a ho.' " (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/us/intrusive-grilling-in-rape-case-raises-alarm-on-military-hearings.html?hp ).
As I reported almost two years ago, the armed services parcel out tens of thousands of medals annually, most of them to soldiers who have simply been wounded. All those pretty trinkets are great for morale.
Why don't we create a new Medal of Chivalry for men who physically intervene in, or report, the sexual victimization of others? It's absurd that we should need to entice them with a flashy bit of "bling," but if that's what it takes, I'm all for it.
Our young men in uniform should be trained to regard themselves not just as killers but also as protectors. Why doesn't the military require such intervention, and punish those who don't speak up? They should be legally regarded as complicit in these crimes if they remain silent.
 What ever happened to men as protectors? And since men get medals just for being wounded, why aren't women who are raped similarly recognized?
Surely no one would dispute that rape victims have been wounded. In this context, I propose that military women who are the victims of sexual violence be given a special survivor's medal.
Getting raped is a Big Thing. Maybe if women were honored for enduring it, and then given an even more fabulous medal for having the courage to report it, and then a trophy and a jewel-encrusted tiara for testifying -- just maybe this scandal would get some action out of those fools in the Pentagon.
In April of 2011, I wrote a post entitled, "A Modest Proposal: Castration at Birth" (http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/2011/04/modest-proposal-castration-at-birth.html#more ).
I was just kidding, of course (kind of), but I was very serious in documenting the ways in which hormone-engorged men saturate our world with violence, greed, crime, environmental devastation, subjugation (economic and political) (and sexual), war and pornography.
If a man shoots himself in the foot during a firefight, or if a piece of shrapnel gets lodged in his butt, he is eligible for the Purple Heart.
But if a woman is torn asunder by an act of violence, humiliation and betrayal -- an act that will scar her forever -- there is no gesture made to acknowledge the damage that has been done to her, or to the sacrifice she has made to serve in the military.
Despite 17 congressional hearings over the past 25 years, there has been no significant action taken to stem the "silent epidemic" of sexual assault in the military.
(Congress never even bothered to address the "tsunami of male lust" and the "reign of terror" that subjected thousands of French women to rape by our heroes in World War II, according to "What Soldiers Do," which will be officially published next month, by historian Mary Louise Roberts. An honest investigation would have been such a buzz kill! The files were suppressed for decades. When French officials asked the Americans to please set up some brothels to accommodate our soldiers' need for "affection," the military refused, saying it would make us look bad. And it would hurt the feelings of the wives and girlfriends back home.)
The Pentagon has declined to implement any of the reasonable current suggestions for reform, such as removing the process of reporting and investigating sexual crimes from the chain of command, and having a dedicated unit, staffed by women, to advocate for and counsel rape victims.
Instead, the male chain of command remains in control. As an example of how well this works: Just 48 hours before today's report, the officer responsible for sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force was arrested and charged with sexual battery, compounding the sense that the military is incapable of addressing this crisis.
Then, according to a May 23, 2013, New York Times article, "A sergeant first class on the staff of the United States Military Academy at West Point has been accused of videotaping female cadets without their consent, sometimes when they were undressed in the bathroom or the shower."
Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker "got off" easy for his crimes. Few rapes are reported because the system does everything possible to discourage women from coming forward. Many victims say that the way they were treated by the military after they reported an incident was as traumatic as the actual assault.
As I discussed in 2011, in the testosterone-engorged environment of the military, even men are not uncommon targets. According to Newsweek, nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010. These are virtually all heterosexual men who are sexually harassed, assaulted or gang-raped by other heterosexuals "who are motivated by power, intimidation, and domination." A recent immigrant joined the Army and was gang-raped in his barracks by men who said they were showing him who was in charge of the United States, Newsweek added.)
If you speak up, you pay a terrible price. Few women do.
It certainly deserves a medal.
Most of these women relinquish their military careers due to the hostility they face for "ratting out" a fellow soldier. The accusation that they have compromised "unit cohesion" creates a resentment that most of them can't endure.
Why don't we honor these women, rather than dishonoring them?
One young man, returning after two years in Afghanistan last year, said, "They practically hand out medals just for showing up. They have suitcases full of them, like they're Juicy Fruit gum."
Even so, women don't get medals very often. It makes men uncomfortable. In fact, 900 Medals of Honor bestowed upon women after the Civil War were rescinded "to restore the prestige" of the award. That mindset seems to have continued to this day, as women's courage, dedication, skill and discipline generally go unnoticed.
Why doesn't the Pentagon offer advanced martial-arts training to women, so that if a man attacks them, they can kick his head in, break his limbs, and shatter his spine?
It seems reasonable at this point to re-examine the whole concept of a coed military. The rate of sexual violence against women -- and the fact that most female soldiers describe ongoing sexual harassment that creates "substantial psychological distress" -- renders the continued enlistment of women into integrated units to be gross negligence on the part of the Armed Services.
Merely by joining the ranks, a woman immediately puts herself "in harm's way," even if she's just sitting on her bunk at Fort Benning, reading a book. These women don't dare go out at night to use the toilet without waking someone up to accompany them.
For a woman, choosing to serve in the military has become a rather desperate thing to do, akin to moving her family into a crime- and gang-infested neighborhood -- except that the likelihood a woman will be victimized in the military is much higher than it is in the most desperate slums in America.
If we were to discover such an egregious situation in any other institution in society -- public or private -- that institution would be shut down until rigorous reforms were implemented. Lawsuits would be brought by the Justice Department. Heads would roll. Procedures and new protections would be firmly installed.
At hearings held last month, even the most sensible changes in how the assaults are handled were rejected by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
But year after year, and scandal after scandal, everyone with any authority makes the usual noises of dismay and disbelief, and then moves on to the next agenda item.
Meanwhile, thousands more women in uniform are verbally harassed, groped, stalked, cornered, threatened, bound, drugged and raped. A higher percentage of female rape victims are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than their male counterparts do when they're wounded in battle. Depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and troubled personal relationships often plague these women years -- even decades -- after the assault. Continuing health problems, including chronic fatigue, back and pelvic pain, gastrointestinal problems and headaches are also reported.
"A woman is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire," said former California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman in testimony before a House panel investigating the military's handling of sexual assault reports.
So pervasive is woman-hating in military culture, from boot camp through active duty -- with obscene comments on breast size, relentless staring and ridicule, sexist rhymes, and pornography everywhere, including in latrines and common areas -- that Harman characterized it as "sexual persecution."
Soldiers have been mass rapists probably ever since that Crazy Little Thing Called War was invented. At least in the past, they had the discernment to rape the enemy's women instead of their own. But if an enemy's terrified wife, trembling in the corner of her hut, isn't handy, a good old American Gal will do. Way to go, Big Boy.
At least when they rape a fellow soldier, they don't shoot her afterward and set her on fire, like they do if she's some impoverished villager. (That is just one of many reasons that I don't support our troops -- something no one is supposed to say: http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/2011/06/memorial-day-aftermath-i-love-kids-but.html )
There are many arguments that can be made in favor of a universal draft. One of them is pertinent to this problem. An all-volunteer force tends to attract, in part, men who are hyper-aggressive, who are drawn to violence, domination and destruction. They get off on the explosions. They get addicted to the adrenaline rushes. They love to blow things up and bust things open.
They are busting women open, and the vast majority are getting away with it.
If all of the nation's young people were obliged to enlist in military service, it would surely have the effect of "diluting" and probably deterring much of the behavior that makes life miserable for women in uniform.
But is it possible that we have been naive all along to think that men and women could serve side by side in the arena of war?
It is the ideal breeding ground for sexual aggression, and for normal romantic entanglements as well. You have young people in the prime of their lives who are thrown together in a highly charged environment. They have left behind everything they've ever known, and everyone they love. They are lonely, isolated and anxious. They face long hours of boring "down time." They are scared. They are amped up. They need each other. Physical and emotional proximity is part of the program. They're saving each others' lives -- they're counting on each other. There's gratitude, respect, affection....attraction. How do we get around it? I'm not talking about rape now -- I'm talking about healthy, normal young adults who can't help noticing the appeal of the opposite sex.
Maybe they can be trained to be such consummate professionals that they can set all these feelings aside.
I rather doubt it. I believe it's inevitable.
But sexual assault and harassment are not. All that's needed is the will to conquer this enemy. And that's what the military is supposed to be all about.
The staged photo at the top of this post, “The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere,” is by Julia Margaret Cameron.