Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Don’t Trust the Pentagon to End Rape

Living in an area with a huge military population one gets to see the failings of the military and the arrogance of senior military personnel with some frequency.   Given the deference given to senior officers - and the fear they can instill in low ranking service members - it's actually little surprise that the U.S. military has a huge sexual abuse problem.  The Christofascists, of course, would much prefer to blame the situation on gays in the military even though the data shows that women are disproportionately the victims of assault.  And their lame excuse to blame the gays ignores the very sick macho culture that can be found in too many members of the military who seem to get their kicks out of sexually debasing guys they deem insufficiently "manly."  A column in the Washington Post looks at the systemic problem which will not be cured if left to the Pentagon and senior military brass.  Here are column highlights:

[T]he chiefs of staff of the military branches will likely admit that there is a serious problem and insist that the solution involves changing military culture. But the challenge goes far deeper. 

The military has a problem with embedded, serial sexual predators. According to a 2011 report from the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office, 90 percent of military rapes are committed by men with previous histories of assault. These predators select and befriend lower-ranking victims; often they ply their victims with alcohol or drugs and assault them when they are unconscious. 

In my film “The Invisible War,” a retired brigadier general, Loree K. Sutton, describes the military as a “target-rich environment” for serial predators. The training and leadership efforts the Pentagon proposes won’t change this environment. It simply isn’t possible to “train” or “lead” serial predators not to rape. 

There is a way to stop these predators: we should prosecute and incarcerate them. But here the military fails entirely. 

Why? There is a deep institutional bias in the military’s justice system; senior officers can — and often do — intervene to prevent cases from being investigated and prosecuted. 

Victims of sexual assault know this well, which is why fewer than 15 percent of sexual assaults in the military are ever reported. I spoke with hundreds of men and women who were sexually assaulted in the military while I was making “The Invisible War”; every one of them was advised by their peers not to report. Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, acknowledged that victims didn’t come forward because “they don’t trust the command.”

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and colleagues have recently introduced legislation that would empower military prosecutors and judges to decide whether to investigate and prosecute felony crimes. This would remove the decision-making process from the military chain of command and remove the disincentive to report crimes. The Pentagon is resisting this reform, just as it resisted reforms after the Tailhook episode in 1991, over sexual assaults at a gathering in Las Vegas; sexual assaults on female Army recruits at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in 1996; and a 2003 investigation of rapes and attempted rapes at the Air Force Academy, near Colorado Springs. 

Now the generals are circling the wagons again, insisting that the legislation’s reasonable reforms would affect commanders’ ability to maintain “good order and discipline.” But, as Ms. Gillibrand noted, a military that suffered 26,000 sexual assaults within its ranks in the last year is already failing to maintain “good order and discipline.” 

This dysfunctional system of military prosecutions affects all of us. With so few predators being convicted, a vast majority are discharged honorably, into an unsuspecting civilian population that unknowingly affords them the opportunity to continue their predation in a new “target-rich environment.” 

The military cannot — and will not — fix this problem on its own. Despite the military’s repeated assurances over several decades that it has “zero tolerance” for sexual assault and will hold commanders accountable, more than 500,000 uniformed men and women have been assaulted since 1991.

I agree 100% with the column's author.

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