FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Are the Armed Forces a Rape Culture?

US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have produced quagmires of crime, corruption and abuse, beginning with the torture of prisoners, the creation of offshore penal colonies, and repeated airborne attacks on shepherd boys, wedding parties, TV crews and allied troops — and ending with atrocity-producing chauvinism, bigotry, night-time home invasions and indefinite detention without charges. We don’t so much spread democracy as shred a mockery.

This war system has produced epidemic suicide rates, boot camp fatalities, plane and copter crash losses, friendly fire deaths, “green-on-blue insider” attacks by Afghan trainees, combat wounds and amputations, PTSD and several unknown or undiagnosed syndromes many of which are permanently debilitating. The abuse and even murder of spouses are on the rise among returning vets while sexual battery, assault and rape have reached staggering rates.

The Department of Defense’s 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military estimates there were 26,000 sexual assaults in the military last year, up 35 percent from 19,000 in 2011. You know that sexual predators are rampaging through the services when the president calls the rape statistics “shameful” and “disgraceful,” when Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel calls the chronic outrages a “betrayal” and a “scourge that must be stamped out,” and when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey says, “We’re losing the confidence of the women who serve.”

Why would Dempsey admit such a thing? Because, according to Kirby Dick, director of the film “The Invisible War,” less than one percent of the 26,000 cases resulted in a court-martial conviction. Kirby’s documentary reviews the scandal of military commanders — not prosecutors and judges — deciding whether to prosecute “embedded serial sexual predators.”  In a recent editorial, Dick writes, “500,000 uniformed men and women have been assaulted since 1991” (the year of the Navy’s Tailhook sexual assaults in Las Vegas), and fewer than 15 percent were ever reported. In 1996, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland was the site of infamous sexual assaults on female recruits. In 2003, it was the Air Force Academy in Colorado that represented the military’s rape scene.

The problem of unreported and unprosecuted sexual assaults in the military is notorious. Of the estimated 26,000 cases last year, the Department of Defense claims only 3,374 were reported. Tens of thousands of victims keep quiet out of fear of retribution by superior officers and a distrust of the military court system.

One such case came to light June 1, 2013 as the Naval Academy announced that three of its football players were under investigation for the serial rape of a female midshipman in 2012. The victim’s lawyer, Susan Burke, has said that after reporting her attack the sophomore was harassed and taunted by other midshipmen and ostracized and retaliated against by the Naval Academy community. While still under investigation, the three perpetrators were allowed to play football while the victim was disciplined for underage drinking. They were formally charged June 19, 2013. In a second case, on May 1, 2013, the Air Force said it disciplined five former commanders for not reporting sexual assault allegations at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland in Texas — where 18 sexual assault trials have taken place and 32 basic training instructors are under investigation for assaulting recruits. In addition, on May 14, 2013 Sgt. Michael McClendon at West Point was charged with secretly videotaping a dozen women, sometimes in the shower. In December 2012, a Pentagon report warned that sexual assaults reported by students at its three prestigious military academies jumped 23 percent in one year.

Three more current cases — beyond being too ironic for words — telegraph just how pervasive the culture of male sexual violence is in the military and how unlikely it is to be abolished by committee. First, Army Lt. Col. Darin Haas, sexual assault prevention officer at Fort Campbell in Ky., was removed from his position after being charged with and arrested for stalking and violating a restraining order procured by his ex-wife. Second, an Army sergeant first class that served as a sexual assault prevention and response coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas, is now accused of abusive sexual contact, assault, pandering and maltreatment of subordinates. Third, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski — who until May 7, 2013 was in charge of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response branch — was arrested on a charge of sexual battery for allegedly groping a women after midnight in a parking lot.

The case of Virginia Messick, who was raped at basic training in Texas, is grimly representative, although her assailant, Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, went to prison last July for raping 10 trainees. Messick didn’t initially report being raped. She was staggered by the dilemma that the rapist was the same officer she was supposed to inform.

Under pressure from Pentagon brass, Congress rejected a bill by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of N.Y. that would have given military prosecutors, not commanding officers, the power to decide which sexual assault cases to try. Without fear of retaliation, the law would have increased the number of reported crimes, but the generals objected, saying it would negatively affect “good order and discipline.” Gillibrand didn’t buy the cliché. She told the generals at a senate hearing in March 2012, “I don’t know how you can say having 19,000 sexual assaults and rapes a year is discipline and order.”

John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its Quarterly, and writes for PeaceVoice.

More articles by:

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
Kim Ives
Haiti’s Popular Uprising Calls for President Jovenel Moïse’s Removal
John Carroll Md
Dispatch From Haiti: Trump and Breastfeeding
Alycee Lane
On Heat Waves and Climate Resistance
Ed Meek
Dershowitz the Sophist
Howard Lisnoff
Liberal Massachusetts and Recreational Marijuana
Ike Nahem
Trump, Trade Wars, and the Class Struggle
Olivia Alperstein
Kavanaugh and the Supremes: It’s About Much More Than Abortion
Manuel E. Yepe
Korea After the Handshake
Robert Kosuth
Militarized Nationalism: Pernicious and Pervasive
Binoy Kampmark
Soft Brexits and Hard Realities: The Tory Revolt
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Localization: a Strategic Alternative to Globalized Authoritarianism
Kevin Zeese - Nils McCune
Correcting The Record: What Is Really Happening In Nicaragua?
Chris Wright
The American Oligarchy: A Review
Kweli Nzito
Imperial Gangster Nations: Peddling “Democracy” and Other Goodies to the Untutored
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail