Tag Archives: Sexual assault in the military

Beloved Enemy/Sexual Assault in the Military, Part II

24 Jun

I am helping a friend work through his thoughts as he writes a newspaper column on sexual assault in the military.  

One question we are asking is how the rate of sexual assault in the military remains so glaringly high.  I have seen 20%, but I also have seen 1 in 3 somewhere.

I believe that a definition changed during my career and that that may be related to the rate remaining high, even in an era when women are encouraged to report sexual assault (they were not when I first came in the military, thus I never reported the man who groped me in the top secret vault in Jacksonville in the early 1980’s).  

The definition is of the word “consent.”  It is now regarded (and rightly so) that a woman has to give conscious consent to a sexual act before it is defined as “consensual.”  If she is passed out from drinking, that is not consent.

Unfortunately, in the bad old days, there was a constant joke made about “getting you drunk and taking advantage of you.”  Almost everyone joked around that way, even husbands to their wives.  It would produce hysterical laughter in everyone when a husband said that to his wife.  

So . . . now we know that a woman (or anyone) has to be able to say “yes.”

But now we seem to be down into the weeds and seeds as to whether she can say “yes” and mean “no” because she is very, very drunk.

Or what if she doesn’t remember what she said the next day? 

What if she initially does not remember the evening, but then thinks she remembers the details about it several years later?

What if she initially thinks she was part of a consensual act (or feels pretty sure that she was, and is dealing with the emotions of a relationship that went haywire), but friends later convince her that the person must have coerced her in some way?  Maybe the man seems pretty manipulative and her friends decide he must have used her, even if she can’t remember the details of the evening . . . 

I believe examples like these are what is making the rate of sexual assault remain so very high.  I don’t think we have 20% of our women being raped by a stranger.  I think most of these incidents are cases where only two people know the details (he said/she said) and one or both of them may have been too drunk to be an accurate witness, if they even remember.

I am not making recommendations for how to handle situations like these.  Myself, I would get rid of the alcohol altogether, but that’s just me.  

Just sayin’ that it is difficult to piece together what happened when it was two friends or a boyfriend/girlfriend, rather than a rape by someone who was not involved in the servicemember’s life (or who was a power figure in her life and demanded sexual favors–that happens, too).

If you divide the categories and reask the question to separate out stranger rape from nights of drinking in which no one can be sure what happened, you may be surprised to find a bit more clarity.

Again, women must give conscious consent.  That is indisputable.  

But when the situation is he said/she said, the man should not be presumed wrong in every instance either. 

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Beloved Enemy, or Sexual Assault in the Military

18 May

Beloved Enemy, or Sexual Assault in the Military

I outed myself today in a Facebook discussion of the latest military statements on sexual abuse and sexual harassment.

Yup, I was one of the 20% of women who was sexually assaulted while in the military.

At the time, I didn’t call it that.

Nor, probably, would anyone else have called it that.

I was crudely groped in a vault in Jacksonville, Florida while the people who normally worked there were at lunch. I had happened to stop by to see a document kept there at exactly the same time as a married acquaintance stopped by to see the same thing.

He apparently thought the absence of anyone else who could serve as a witness granted him leave to do anything he wanted to do.

Thankfully, I was able to handle it with a “What are you, crazy? Don’t ever do that again” and a hurried departure.

The thing that subsequently made me maddest was that he was promoted to lieutenant commander faster than I was. The dirtball!

I worked with him again in London and he never again tried anything with me. I hope he never tried anything with anyone else either.

All that to say, as a statistic, I am glad the military is addressing sexual assault.

I do disagree with General Odierno calling fighting sexual assault the Army’s primary mission, but I understand that he was resorting to hyperbole.

The reason we fight sexual assault is because, aside from being ungodly, it also breaks down unit cohesion. If you can’t trust your fellow soldiers or sailors to treat you as a person instead of as the sum of your anatomical parts, you really can’t belong to a unit!

Not to put too fine a point on it . . .

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