“Support the Troops” = Support Sexual Assaults

Source: Washington Post

Chris Ernesto

(RINF) – The epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military was highlighted in the 2012 Oscar nominated documentary, The Invisible War. In the film, victims recounted their stories of abuse (by superiors and fellow enlisted personnel) along with the lack of recourse and an impartial judicial system, reprisals against the accusers versus the perpetrators, and the shortage of mental health support for the survivors of abuse.

The film led to various directives focusing on eliminating sexual assault in the military, from then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s edict in 2012 taking the adjudication of these cases away from the commanding officers of the affected units, to President Obama’s signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 which included improvements to the handling of sexual assault cases.

But it appears that nothing has changed.

On Monday, the Washington Post published an expose by Craig Whitlock detailing the empty promises made by the military to address the high rate of sexual assault in its ranks. Not only did the Army disregard their pledge to Congress to punish offenders, they actually allowed sexual predators to remain in posts where they were in charge of promoting sexual assault prevention.

Source: Washington Post
Source: Washington Post

It is so out of control that during a 4-day conference on sexual assault prevention in 2013 in Orlando, sheriff deputies were called to investigate a reported rape by one of the Army Reservists attending the session.

In another incident, seven women told investigators that Army Col. Morris “Reese” Turner — leader of a military training institute dedicated to the prevention of discrimination and sexual misconduct – had “inappropriately hugged them, rubbed their shoulders or touched them without consent.”

Source: Washington Post
Source: Washington Post

And of course, the Pentagon is under-reporting the number of assaults – by a lot.

According to the Defense Department, 6,131 sexual assaults occurred in the armed forces in 2014, yet in a 2014 Rand survey, 20,300 military members claimed they were sexually assaulted, of which 76% of women and 57% of men were assaulted at least twice, resulting in over 47,000 sexual assaults. Of the approximately 200,000 women in the military, about 5% reported that they had been a victim of sexual assault in 2014 alone.

Source: Washington Post
Source: Washington Post

I know many people who are in the military and I find most of them insightful, smart and good listeners. However, I cannot support their chosen profession, as I equate “supporting the troops” to supporting thousands of people who commit acts of sexual assault and other atrocities.

It’s probably true that all professions have a number of “bad apples” and it is unfair to view an entire group of people in a negative light based on the actions of a few. But 47,000 cases of sexual assault in 2014 means there are more than “a few” bad apples in the military.

Indeed, people in the United States military are 31 times more likely* to be a victim of sexual assault than people as a whole in the U.S.

And when a person joins the military today, they are volunteering to have a career that may entail killing people. In fact, anyone who serves in a combat role is at least partially responsible for creating refugees and for fueling anti-American sentiments. Add to that the rampant sexual assault issue, and it would be hypocritical for any antiwar or justice advocate to say they support such a profession.

That being said, some of the most dedicated and effective antiwar activists I know are veterans of the U.S. military. Those are the people who deserve support. The same is true for those who are conscientious objectors, and for those who have become whistle blowers, such as the four former drone war veterans who are speaking out against the indiscriminant killing of civilians killed by weaponized drones in Afghanistan (including children who were referred to as “fun-sized” terrorists).

Or the British soldier, Chris Herbert, who lost a leg while fighting in Iraq who speaks out against anti-Muslim sentiment. He passionately stated, “Yes. A Muslim man blew me up, and I lost my leg. A Muslim man also lost his arm that day wearing a British uniform. A Muslim medic was in the helicopter that took me from the field.”

When someone says they “support the troops” they are saying it is acceptable to have a career that kills people and that it is fine to be part of an institution that turns a blind eye to rape and sexual violence.

Instead of saying “thank you for your service” to someone who is in the military, we should be questioning them on their career choice and challenging them to at least actively work to stopping sexual assault within their ranks.

* There are approximately 266 million Americans 12 years or older. According to the Justice Dept. there are 293,066 victims of rape or sexual assault each year. So a person in the U.S. has a 0.1% chance of being a victim of a rape or sexual assault.

There are approximately 1.37 million active duty U.S. military personnel, of which 43,000 were sexually assaulted in 2014. So a person in the U.S. military has a 3.1% chance of being a victim of a rape or sexual assault.

  • Sophia Jones

    For years the military has done squat regarding combating sexual assault in its ranks. The Tailhook scandal happened in 1991 and nothing much has improved since then. I really thought that the documentary The Invisible War would change the culture in the military regarding sexual assault. Silly me. The expose in the Washington Post is believable but at the same time is truly unbelievable!! How can these sexual assaults continue in this day and age and then to make matters worse for the accusers, the perpetrators are left in their key positions of preventing sexual assault? I stand with the author and declare that I don’t support the profession of military service. I cannot support an organization that cares so little about human dignify and life yet protects the fellas (read predators) in this good ole boys network. I say yes to supporting whistleblowers and courageous men like Chris Herbert. We all must stand up and hold the military accountable once and for all. They can stop sexual assaults if they want

  • Marcus Joiner

    Plus, US troops come home and many of them beat their wives.

  • Rachel Bicha

    I’m in the Navy and the Navy does a lot of training about sexual assault. It has programs in place to address the problems and try to prevent them. Yes, there has been problems in the past; the Navy is trying to fix that. In the Navy it is against policy for “pepetrators to be left in key positions of preventing sexual assault” or for that matter for them to be left in whatever position they were in. Just in the last 10 years there’s been a lot of improvement. We have a ways to go, certainly, but we are making improvement. I’m female and have never been assaulted, though an officer did want to get overly familiar with me once. When I wouldn’t respond to his advances, he was real cold and aloof with me always after that. As for supporting troops, saying “Thank you for your service” is neither expected nor required by military personnel, so if you don’t want to say it, don’t. If you do, do. It’s that simple. But no, you don’t have the right to challenge me on my organization’s policies and culture. I don’t engage in sexual assault nor allow anyone I know to do so. What strangers half a world away do is not under my control. Or question my career choices any more than you would want me to question your career choices. You don’t have to like my career choice; that’s fine. But don’t be rude to me about it; that’s not fine.