Cases of rape and sexual assault in the ranks of our U.S. military continue to grow, and very few proactive steps seem to be taken, by higher up to bring the offenders to justice, to try and put an end to these horrific occurrences. The military institution seems unable to end this issue on its own, and seems in need of our country to step in and make sure these crimes stop, the offenders come to justice, and the victims get the help and support they need. To get to the heart of the issue is it important to know why rape is so common in the military, why these crimes often go unreported, and what steps the military and our country can take to help prevent future rapes.
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It is important to look into rape cases and try to determine the causes of the rape. What are the situations in which these rapes occur? In a documentary shown in class titled “The Invisible War” a large number of women talked about being raped while serving in the military. None of these women did anything that would suggest their interest in sexual relations, but each one of them was forced into the act. One common element that relates all these cases together is that in each situation the woman that was violated was one of the only women in her military unit. With such a high ratio of men to women the risk of sexual assault and rape greatly increases. In one case concerning the Coast Guard the unit was all men until a new female recruit was stationed there along with them. Almost immediately she had everyone’s attention, and it was greatly unwanted. She immediately became a victim of verbal sexual misconduct, and as a result asked to be moved to another duty station. Her authorities denied this request. As a result a few weeks later her own “brothers in arms” raped her. In the military camaraderie is something that is strived after, but these men displayed nothing of the sort. With such a minority of women, and in some cases one woman on her own risk of rape greatly increases.
Just because there is a minority of women doesn’t really explain why men would take advantage of this. One possible answer to this mystery can be answered in a study that was conducted in the Navy that “revealed a history of men coming into the service having either raped or having attempted rape at twice the rate of the civilian population.” (West & West, 2012) This suggests that a large amount of men in the military have a history of rape that when mixed with “easy targets” makes the chances of rape occurring escalate. With recruits like this being allowed into our countries military, it is obvious why so many rapes happen.
Physical explanations and actual cases and studies do help give an explanation of rape in the military, but there is also a sociological perspective and ethological and psychophysiological explanations. The sociological perspective of rape helps to explain why the military as an organization is a place where rape offenders thrive. There are three aspects that are used to explain this theory. The first aspect looks into the military’s organizational structure and culture. The military is a hierarchal one that was organized to produce warriors who are taught to overcome barriers and to be manly. This culture is a very masculine one. Aaron Belkin states “a commander hierarchy combined with a culture that emphasizes dominance creates a recipe for rape.” Women do not fit into this type of military very well, and that ones that try often find themselves the victim of a horrible crime. The second aspect, masculinity, was just viewed in combination with the first. The final aspect is the mechanism for redress. The fact that the whole procedure for investigation is done in-house poses a serious problem. Other countries take cases of rape outside the military and hand it over to civilian police. These three aspects make up the sociological perspective of rape. “To introduce ethological and psychophysiological explanation as an understanding of human actions which we saw as primarily voluntaristic, motivated strategies manifest in competing interests, arouses, not altogether surprisingly, a sense of vertigo or indeed nausea.” (Littlewood, 1997) With these perspectives on rape it does help us to understand a little better why rape occurs in the military.
With rape being such a serious crime, it is a strange fact that so many rapes go unreported. Answering that question will give a better understanding of how serious rape affects the victims of the crime. Often when stats are gathered about a crime, many crimes aren’t reported. This dark figure of crime is credited to the fear that rape puts into victims minds. A very sad example is from “The Invisible War”. Kori, one of the victims, was being interviewed and during the interview she finally admitted to her husband that she was only a victim of sexual assault but that she in fact had been raped, and “not only was she raped, but in one of the sexual assaults she was beaten so severely that her jaw was smashed. And the discs in her neck were damaged so badly that she required surgery, which the Coast Guard did not do-even though there was physical evidence of assault.” (West & West, 2012) Finding something hard to tell your own husband puts in perspective how hard it would be to tell anyone else, especially a member of the unit in which you were raped.
In the military when subordinates are targets of a higher ranks wants and desires it makes it difficult to disobey those orders, no matter how unlawful. In the Army Times news article “A Secret Sex Life”, army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. “”Sinclair has engaged in a deliberate, degrading course of conduct where he targets his subordinates to satisfy his abhorrent desires.”” (Gould, 2012) This follows up on the previous point, because the victims are for the most part helpless when the offender has power over them both physically and with rank. When the person who commits the rape is also the person who gives you your daily orders and commands it makes it very difficult to accuse that person. One reason it is so difficult is that to achieve these higher ranks an individual has to demonstrate loyal dedication to the military and they are viewed as the best examples in the ranks. So when this person is accused of a crime by an insubordinate that has been in the military for less than a year it becomes a matter of whose word has more swaying power. Rather than suffer the embarrassment of the rape, and still not find justice, victims choose the alternate route, keeping silent. In the article “A Secret Sex Life” an unnamed female captain “said she repeatedly tried to end the relationship andâ€¦she asked Sinclair to transfer her out of his command.” (Gould, 2012) Although this didn’t start out as actual rape, just fraternization, it escalated into a sexual relationship in which the female officer felt trapped and was exposed to sexual assault. The women even threatened suicide at one point to try and get her point across to the general, and to prevent having to suffer the embarrassment of everyone knowing the truth about her and the general.
All these unreported cases of rape are known as the dark figure of crime. This dark figure of crime “is that portion of the total crimes committed each year that never comes to light.” (Hemmens & Walsh, 2011) Rapes in the military are definitely underreported, an issue, which desperately needs to be addressed, and a solution needs to be made. If more rapes were reported it would give investigators a better idea of why they happen, where the majority of them take place, and how to best help eliminate future rapes from occurring.
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With the above information on why rapes occur and why so many go unreported what steps can the military take to prevent future rape? Being a member of the United States Marine Corps I know first hand quite a few of the steps that the Department of Defense, DoD, is taking to try and prevent future rapes. The main tactic they use is to try and educate us, the members of the military, is to show us how rape destroys both the life of the offender and the victim. They make it very clear the strict punishment that will be imposed on the offender if he or she chooses to commit this heinous crime. One problem with these “educational” videos is that they often come across as comical and poorly done. The lack of seriousness and maturity that many military members show during the viewing of these films really shows me how serious the issue must be. Knowing that the punishments don’t usually fit the crime makes me very pessimistic while watching these films too. The truth of the matter shows that around 87% of sexual crimes remain a secret and do not ever attract the attention that they need to go to trial. The DoD does have aims to better protect the rights of rape defendants. We see this with the “Pentagonâ€¦finalizing changes to the military’s rape law that experts say will shore up the rights of troops accused of sexual assault.” (Tilghman, 2012) So instead of trying to protect the victims the DoD is taking the opposite approach in trying to protect the offenders who are on the defensive. One good change that the DoD is going to take is that they will allow civilian agencies access to victims and offenders records, and military personnel won’t only use them. This will at least allow the victims the use of their own attorneys.
The military does use the Uniformed Victim Advocate, UVA. The UVA is a member of the chain of command whose main role is to help victims of a military crime. This is a method that helps the victim deal with his or her issues, and know how best to address the crime committed, but it doesn’t help prevent the actual crime from happening.
In order to put an end to rape happening in the military the chain of command needs to make it clear that there is a zero tolerance policy when rape is committed, and they need to stand behind this rule. One of the main steps that the military needs to take in order to help prevent rape is to have a better screening process for those interested in joining. As we saw before with the Navy recruits being allowed to join, this cannot be allowed. The last and most important step that the military needs to take is to address the sociological perspective of rape and the three aspects that go along with it. They need to either ban women from the military altogether, a path that I feel would be the most appropriate, or they can take measures to give the females in the military more protection. I feel women in the military will always be vulnerable to attacks, and even though all rapes don’t involve women a majority of them do.
Rape, in the military, needs to stop. The DoD needs to put its fist down and make punishment for offenders and the protection of victims of the utmost importance. It affects too many people, and if it isn’t tolerated in the civilian world then the same should hold true for the military lifestyle as well. Rape is too common in the military, too often it goes unreported, and more safety nets and precautions need to be put in place if women are to be a productive part of our military. Following simple guidelines for insuring these issues being resolved would go a long way for our country and would help produce a positive view on the U.S. military.
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