'Sexual Assaults on Female Soldiers: Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

I would like to shout out Time Magazine essayist Nancy Gibbs for her exceptionally well written piece in the March issue, "Sexual Assaults on Female Soldiers: Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Gibbs profiles a major issue happening in our armed services that is not talked about at all - what she calls "the war within." Women now represent 15% of our armed forces, and they are under siege - not by the enemy but by their fellow male serviceman.

Gibbs gives the Pentagon's latest figures showing that nearly 3,000 women were sexually assaulted in 2008, up 9% from the year before; among women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number rose 25%. When you look at the entire universe of female veterans, close to a third say they were victims of rape or assault while they were serving — twice the rate in the civilian population. This is ASTOUNDING! Just so horrible. Why is no one talking about this!?

Kathryn Kerns from Arizona wrote into Time saying that the Gibbs piece should have been the cover story for March - and I agree. The Rape Abuse & Incest National Network estimates that 60% of sexual assaults against women are not reported in the general population. Compare this to the Pentagon's figures that between 80% to 90% of sexual assaults against female soldiers go unreported. These figures are appalling.

Gibbs offers her theories as to why this is happening: that military culture is intrinsically violent and hypermasculine, that the military is slow to identify potential risks among raw young recruits, that too many commanders would rather look the other way than acknowledge this kind of breakdown in their units, and that the issue has simply not been made a high enough priority.

Only 8% of the cases that are actually investigated end in prosecution, compared with 40% for civilians arrested for sex crimes. Astonishingly, about 80% of those servicemen convicted are still honorably discharged. This issue must be brought out into the light. We must blog about it, petition our leaders, rant about it, until something major changes.

As Gibbs so aptly put it: What does it say if the military can't or won't protect the people we ask to protect us? Perhaps it goes to a bigger issue we must address: that women, children, and sexual assault victims are disbelieved, distrusted, and re-victimized by the system.

Read Gibbs entire article here.

5 comments:

  1. Regarding sex crimes in the service: Is it not possible that mother natures imperatives (the reproductive thing) are just too difficult
    to control when younger men and women are placed in close quarters for extended periods of time. As an aside, could this be a portent of how things could be if heterosexual and homosexual and bisexual people are placed in even closer quarters for long periods of time. We can have all the rules, regulations, punishments, etc., but will this stop the incredible urgings created by our endocrine glands? They use to give saltpeter (potassium nitrate) to male soldiers if the believe it would control sexual urges. Science now says it was a myth, but they tried. Our we not spitting in the wind thinking the problem of fraternization whether coerced or not can be solved by indoctrination and regulations. What is the pregnancy rate on Navy ships where men and women serve? Getting the truth on this is difficult if not impossible. What I guess I am trying to say is sometimes we have to go along with mother nature and not fight her or suffer the terrible consequences.

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  2. Female currently servingApril 5, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    Whoever "anonymous" was that commented on this is a fool. Are you seriously trying to advocate that women not serve? Are you stuck in 1900? Yes, the urges can be repressed, just like any other urge you may have when you join the military, you become a professional and you repress them. By your logic you shouldn't let women work at all because in the work place in general they run the risk of some male who can't control his urges.

    Yes, it's awful what happens to us females sometimes in the military, and for some reason in recent years the rates have gone up again, although they were dropping since the start of the century, but it doesn't mean that it's inevitable, not on this scale. Perhaps if the military didn't allow people with such awful and violent backgrounds in we wouldn't have problems with rape, sexual assault, theft, violence, etc. But no no, it's the presence of females that makes these men this way.

    Of course they're going to have sex if they want to. If both parties are consenting there will always be sex in the service, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual, and there's no way to prevent it. As for how many pregnancies there are on Navy ships, very low. Do you understand the repercussions of becoming pregnant when you're overseas or on a duty somewhere? You can get court marshaled, you can get a dishonorable discharge, which essentially means good luck ever getting a job again. So now you have a baby and no way of finding work. Most women in the military are on birth control and not that stupid.

    One more thing, you know what else is a myth? That saltpeter was ever put in our food.

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  3. Whoever "anonymous" was that commented on this is a fool. Are you seriously trying to advocate that women not serve? Are you stuck in 1900? Yes, the urges can be repressed, just like any other urge you may have when you join the military, you become a professional and you repress them. By your logic you shouldn't let women work at all because in the work place in general they run the risk of some male who can't control his urges.

    Yes, it's awful what happens to us females sometimes in the military, and for some reason in recent years the rates have gone up again, although they were dropping since the start of the century, but it doesn't mean that it's inevitable, not on this scale. Perhaps if the military didn't allow people with such awful and violent backgrounds in we wouldn't have problems with rape, sexual assault, theft, violence, etc. But no no, it's the presence of females that makes these men this way.

    Of course they're going to have sex if they want to. If both parties are consenting there will always be sex in the service, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual, and there's no way to prevent it. As for how many pregnancies there are on Navy ships, very low. Do you understand the repercussions of becoming pregnant when you're overseas or on a duty somewhere? You can get court marshaled, you can get a dishonorable discharge, which essentially means good luck ever getting a job again. So now you have a baby and no way of finding work. Most women in the military are on birth control and not that stupid.

    One more thing, you know what else is a myth? That saltpeter was ever put in our food.

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  4. I heard they consider it a civil suit (from someone in the military.) If they don't punish rape then isn't that where rapists will repeat rapes?

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  5. My feeling is that more women need to be in more senior positions in many areas. More women journalists need to advance the causes related to women.

    Womens' issues need a much higher profile in every area of society.

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