Sex Crimes in the US Military: The Safety and Protection of Women in the Armed Forces

Joachim Hagopian

March 2014 was a bad month for women in the armed forces. The bill sponsored by female Senators Gillibrand and McCaskill went down in defeat by five votes that would have transferred jurisdiction of all military assault cases away from the good ol’ boys club of the male commander to civilian court. On the same day the Senate was voting to leave sexual assault under military control, across the Potomac River the Pentagon was forced to make public the Army’s top officer in charge of reducing the sexual epidemic in its ranks himself being investigated for sexual misconduct. Then in that same month of March the highest profile rape case in Naval Academy history resulted in acquittal of a former Navy football player. That same day the highest profile case of rape in US Army history against a general also resulted in a mere slap of the hand. 

After the entire preceding year near daily headlines of rape in the military drawing continuous unwanted attention to the out of control sex crimes running rampant throughout both the services and the service academies, with over 26,000 reported assault cases in 2012 alone, these demoralizing March events cast a foreboding dark shadow on women in uniform’s future safety and protection. The subsequent harassment and humiliation that the one in ten rape survivors who do come forth and report sex crimes are subjected to amounts to double punishment, being re-traumatized and re-victimized by a military system that fails to convict and imprison 99% of military rapists. Adding the turn of events from March madness to the already dismal record and the prospect that women would be any better protected in the future seems bleak to impossible.

The top military brass that have not won a war in seven decades were resoundingly victorious in their yearlong PR campaign at damage control, convincing Congress that long overdue improvements were actually being made. Those shocking headlines earlier this year spelled business as usual for young American women both in and out of uniform. At the same time rape on college campuses across America was also spiking out of control with headlines indicating that up to one in four females attending college in the US are also victims of sexual assault. And the cherished, most honorable military institutions of West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy that brag that cadets are our nation’s best and brightest and so called cream of the crop turn out to be the worst offenders of all.

As a graduate of West Point and former Army officer, I have always believed that the truth has a way of setting us free. In the end, justice in the form of the truth eventually surfaces despite whatever diabolical forces have been in place to kill the truth from ever becoming known. This week marks a full year after President Obama’s assessment demanding that progress be made. On the eve before the Pentagon releases the latest annual statistics on sexual assault in the military, two developments this week give hope that truth and justice may actually prevail after all. Raping women and continuing to get away with it in the armed forces and specifically at the service academies may become more difficult in the future.

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