The Military’s War on Women Continues


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

I saw this story during this past week and I have to admit, that it made my stomach turn.  Despite the increased interest some in Congress and in the Pentagon have shown in how accusations of rape by female members of the military are treated, women can still jeopardize their careers and their mental well-being if they bring charges against their alleged attackers.

‘”For roughly 30 hours over several days, defense lawyers for three former United States Naval Academy football players grilled a female midshipman about her sexual habits. In a public hearing, they asked the woman, who has accused the three athletes of raping her, whether she wore a bra, how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex and whether she had apologized to another midshipman with whom she had intercourse “for being a ho.”’ New York Times

While I understand that defense attorneys must defend their clients to the best of their ability, and that defendants are innocent until proven guilty, how many legitimate victims of sexual crimes in the military would come forward when they can be subjected to 30 hours of disgusting grilling that may not be allowed in a criminal court outside of the military?  It can be argued that part of the problem in dealing with sexual crime allegations is the use of Article 32 proceedings, under military law,  which are used to determine if a case should go to a court-martial.

“The aggressive tactics on display this month and last are part of a case that has generated intense public scrutiny and raised alarms about what are called Article 32 proceedings, which help determine whether cases are sent to courts-martial. Article 32 hearings permit questions not allowed in civilian courts and can include cross-examinations of witnesses so intense that legal experts say they frighten many victims from coming forward.” New York Times

In the case of the Naval Academy student noted above, the military judge who is handling the charges will not make the decision whether a court-martial should be held.  The judge forwards the case to the superintendent of the Naval Academy and Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller will make what many would consider a judicial decision and decide if the case should be tried.

Does it make sense that a third-party, who in many cases is the commanding officer of the parties involved and who is not involved in the Article 32 proceedings, can decide if defendants are brought to trial?  Would it be a concern to female victims that the vast majority of the commanding or supervising officers who are making these decision,  are men?

The military has a spotty history in taking care of this sexual assault crisis.  The following case with the Air Force is just one example how the system can be tilted against female victims.

“The Defense Department says that 68 percent of sexual assault cases were sent to court-martial last year, compared with 30 percent in 2007.  But those increases have been accompanied by a series of controversies that have roiled the system, including one at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas in which more than 40 female trainees were abused by their instructors, as well as the arrest in May of the director of the Air Force’s sexual response unit, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, for what the police said was his groping of a woman he did not know in a parking lot. A recent Pentagon survey found that an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults took place in the military last year, up from 19,000 two years before.” New York Times

There is some hope in the future for all victims of sexual abuse in the military.  In the instant case, the victims attorney has filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to remove the superintendent’s jurisdiction over this case.   There has also been some movement in amending or reforming Article 32 hearings to afford rape victims more protection.

“The Joint Service Committee on Military Justice, which reviews potential changes to military law, is considering a proposal that would give sexual assault victims in Article 32 hearings new protections to shield them from the kind of questioning the midshipman experienced”  New York Times

We will await the results of the Joint Service Committee’s review and see if legitimate reforms are proposed and instituted.  I believe the Senate hearings held in June of this year may help hasten the reforms that are needed to protect all victims of sexual assault in the military.  The proof will be in the reforms that actually come out of the Senate hearings and the Pentagon’s review process.

Do you think that a supervising officer should have the power to make a judicial decision on whether a criminal case should or should not go to trial?  What reforms do you think are necessary to allow full justice for any victim of sexual assault in the military?

Additional Resources:  Uniform Code of Military JusticeArticle 32 of the UCMJ.

50 thoughts on “The Military’s War on Women Continues

  1. Pete:

    That links explains a lot of what’s going on in Congress and the debt just keeps growing and spending continues to runaway.

  2. Pete: “no means no. always. with anyone.”

    I instruct with at risk youth whom I work with that anything less than, ” Yes, dammit, yes, yes, yes,” means “No.”

  3. The Military’s Secret Shame
    When men in the military rape other men in the ranks, no one wants to talk about it. Why the sexual assault of males in the service is finally being confronted.
    Apr 3, 2011

    Greg Jeloudov was 35 and new to America when he decided to join the Army. Like most soldiers, he was driven by both patriotism for his adopted homeland and the pragmatic notion that the military could be a first step in a career that would enable him to provide for his new family. Instead, Jeloudov arrived at Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training in May 2009, in the middle of the economic crisis and rising xenophobia. The soldiers in his unit, responding to his Russian accent and New York City address, called him a “champagne socialist” and a “commie faggot.” He was, he told NEWSWEEK, “in the middle of the viper’s pit.” Less than two weeks after arriving on base, he was gang-raped in the barracks by men who said they were showing him who was in charge of the United States. When he reported the attack to unit commanders, he says they told him, “It must have been your fault. You must have provoked them.”

    What happened to Jeloudov is a part of life in the armed forces that hardly anyone talks about: male-on-male sexual assault. In the staunchly traditional military culture, it’s an ugly secret, kept hidden by layers of personal shame and official denial. Last year nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, up from just over 30,000 in 2003. For the victims, the experience is a special kind of hell—a soldier can’t just quit his job to get away from his abusers. But now, as the Pentagon has begun to acknowledge the rampant problem of sexual violence for both genders, men are coming forward in unprecedented numbers, telling their stories and hoping that speaking up will help them, and others, put their lives back together. “We don’t like to think that our men can be victims,” says Kathleen Chard, chief of the posttraumatic-stress unit at the Cincinnati VA. “We don’t want to think that it could happen to us. If a man standing in front of me who is my size, my skill level, who has been raped—what does that mean about me? I can be raped, too.”

    In fact, it is the high victimization rate of female soldiers—women in the armed forces are now more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat—that has helped cast light on men assaulting other men. For most of military history, there was neither a system nor language in place to deal with incidents of soldier-on-soldier sexual assault. It wasn’t until 1992 that the Defense Department even acknowledged such incidents as an offense, and initially only female victims were recognized. But last year more than 110 men made confidential reports of sexual assault by other men, nearly three times as many as in 2007. The real number of victims is surely much higher. Even among civilians, sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. In the military the silence is nearly complete. By the Pentagon’s own estimate, figures for assaults on women likely represent less than 20 percent of actual incidents. Another study released in March found that just one in 15 men in the Air Force would report being sexually assaulted, compared with one in five women.

    While many might assume the perpetrators of such assaults are closeted gay soldiers, military experts and outside researchers say assailants usually are heterosexual. Like in prisons and other predominantly male environments, male-on-male assault in the military, experts say, is motivated not by homosexuality, but power, intimidation, and domination. Assault victims, both male and female, are typically young and low-ranking; they are targeted for their vulnerability. Often, in male-on-male cases, assailants go after those they assume are gay, even if they are not. “One of the reasons people commit sexual assault is to put people in their place, to drive them out,” says Mic Hunter, author of Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military. “Sexual assault isn’t about sex, it’s about violence.”…

    Blake Stephens, now 29, joined the Army in January 2001, just seven months after graduating from high school. The verbal and physical attacks started quickly, he says, and came from virtually every level of the chain of command. In one of the worst incidents, a group of men tackled him, shoved a soda bottle into his rectum, and threw him backward off an elevated platform onto the hood of a car. When he reported the incident, Stephens says, his platoon sergeant told him, “You’re the problem. You’re the reason this is happening,” and refused to take action. “You just feel trapped,” he says. “They basically tell you you’re going to have to keep working with these people day after day, night after night. You don’t have a choice.” His assailants told him that once deployed to Iraq, they would shoot him in the head. “They told me they were going to have sex with me all the time when we were there,” he says.

  4. nick,

    Pray tell, what stance am I taking when I state a fact?


    The Majority of Military Sexual Assault Victims Are Men. Now Maybe We Can Fix This?
    By Amanda Marcotte

    In its latest report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, 53 percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men.

    Part of the reason for this is that women are still a small minority in the military, representing only about 15 percent of service members. But what this astonishing number demonstrates is the truth of what feminists have been saying about sexual assault all along: It is not caused by an overabundance of sexual desire, but is an act of violence perpetrated by people who want to hurt and humiliate the victim, using sex as a weapon.

    That’s why comments such as Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s during the Senate hearings on rape in the military are not just offensive, but flat-out wrong. Chambliss acknowledged the gravity of the problem but ended up minimizing it by saying, “Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.” These kinds of comments perpetuate the myth that rape is not that big of a deal, the result of miscommunication, or caused by men being just too damn horny and ladies being just too damn sexy to not rape.

    The fact that most military rape is male-on-male also shows how very wrong it is to suggest that the problem is that we let women serve to begin with. Even if you removed them all, that leaves nearly 14,000 rapes a year.

    And lest you think this male-on-male crime is the result of the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Dao shows otherwise. As one male victim told Dao, “The people who perpetrated these crimes on me identify as heterosexual males,” which is frequently true of male-on-male rape.

    It would be nice if the dynamics of sexual assault could be understood and accepted even when women are the victims, but sadly, that’s not the world we live in. Publicizing the percentage of victims that are men will help male victims understand that they’re not alone, and it will help the public at large better realize why widespread sexual assault happens and why it’s so critical to do a better job preventing and prosecuting it.

  5. Did you read your article? The Pentagon “estimated” would be your first clue it is not a “fact.” Don’t you think a male bastion like the military just might want to skew the report to downplay female victims? Secondly, there is a fact in the article. That being women make up only 15% of the military. Finally, doesn’t it strike you just a bit odd the stance you’re taking?

  6. Your goddaughter is also in my prayers. Hopefully, she will be able to not let this define her. I dealt w/ rape victims. And, like all victims of any tragedy, those who refuse to look upon themselves as victims, those who do not let that tragedy define them, move on to live good lives.

  7. RobinH, Are you more concerned w/ your daughter or son being a victim of rape? My prayers are that neither is a victim of anything, that they serve and then take advantage of the well earned benefits.

  8. @ Beldar easier said then done.. unfortunately my Godson and GodDaughter both decided to join the airforce. my entire family begged and pleaded with them. i gave them all the information i could find about the abuses in the military, the rapes of both sexes, and the phony wars, attacks.. As soon as my goddaughter completed boot camp. she was asked to go hang out with a few of the people. one of the guys there she didnt know well but they spent most of the evening talking. when the time came for them all to head back to camp. the guy she had been talking to. decided he deserved more of her time. when she turned him down he got pissed off and beat her up. she pressed charges and 1 yr later they still havent done anything to him/….

  9. I wouldn’t call it touchy. I would call it appalled @ a total lack of common sense. You’re a slave to some stat that would indicate more resources should be spent on counseling for men victims of sexual assault. You are so intent on scoring some silly debating point, on being “right,” a characteristic I saw so often in my other career, that it makes me sad. I guess that’s more than appalled, I’m sad.

  10. If you have offspring, do not encourage them to join the military. The army will not “make a man” out of junior. If you want to get out of paying for college just be up front with the kid and tell him he is on his own. But don’t encourage him to join the navy to see the world.

  11. I’ll focus on trying to keep women from being victims, you can take care of the men. Is that a good plan? Does that seem a good use of resources?

  12. ncik,

    You said that males were rarely the victims of sexual assault. I was pointing out that many men in the military HAVE been victims of sexual assault. A victim is still a victim–no matter who does the assaulting.

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