It is estimated that nearly 1 in 3 female military veterans were victims of rape or sexual assault by their fellow soldiers (Time, March 8, 2010) while serving on active duty. Now it seems that the military, rather than deal with the issue, is blaming victims by diagnosing them with a personality disorder and discharging them.
For those who do not know what this means, it is widely considered (albeit wrongly) that personality disorders are incurable - so giving someone a personality disorder diagnosis (Axis II in the DSM-IV-TR) is labeling them as "crazy." Once this diagnosis is given, it will follow these women for life, impacting their employment options, their insurance costs, and many other areas of their lives, not least of which is their sense of self.
This is fucked up - these women are victimized by their fellow soldiers, then they are further victimized by the patriarchal military system. Adding further insult, dumbass talking heads on networks like Fox News are blaming them as well:
“I think they have actually discovered there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminist.”Is this how we should make sense of the violence? Military women should expect to be raped because they are serving in close proximity to men? Men cannot control their beastly sexual urges when they are around women?
She then noted that the budget of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office increased from $5 million in 2005 to more than $23 million in 2010.
“So, you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much,” Trotta remarked.
It must be noted, despite the belief that rape is about sex, that most rape is about anger, power, humiliation, or some other motivation (control, revenge, and so on) and is NOT about sex. Please keep that in my mind throughout this post.
Cultural and literary critic Camille Paglia thinks women need to get beyond the feminist idea that men and women are equal (from PBS - Rape: The most intimate of crimes).
In her book, Sex, Art and American Culture, Camille Paglia calls these "somber truths" women must accept. "Feminism keeps saying the sexes are the same," she writes. "It keeps telling women they can do anything, go anywhere, say anything, wear anything. No, they can't. Women will always be in sexual danger." She may be right, but that doesn't necessarily make rape a woman's responsibility.Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem believes we need to stop worrying about who gets raped (aside from being focused on the 18-24 age range, there are few other patterns, and even older women are targets) and start looking at who does the raping:
"We have to stop talking about who gets raped and talk about who rapes. Somebody is doing these things. And we have to identify who they are." Who is that somebody? Why do men rape women? And how do you stop them?When humans lived in a world of physical power, small tribal groups, tenuous survival, and little to no higher cognitive function (such as guilt or empathy), rape may have been a part of life. Or at least that is what the evolutionary psychologists argue, and they contend those same drives are still present in our psychological make-up as a species.
They may be partially correct - rape is more likely when social structures break down in famine, natural disasters, and warfare. To a certain degree, social structure helps reduce violence and enforces norms of behavior.
Further, while we tend to think of primates as more sexually violent, Frans de Waal and other primatologists present very different viewpoints. Barbara Smuts (Discover, Aug. 1995) observes:
Orangutans and chimpanzees are the only nonhuman primates whose males in the wild force females to copulate, while males of several other species, such as vervet monkeys and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees), rarely if ever try to coerce females sexually. Between the two extremes lie many species, like hamadryas baboons, in which males do not force copulation but nonetheless use threats and intimidation to get sex.
Clearly, this behavior is not common to all primates, and bonobos offer the best example of a culture where male assault never has been recorded - interestingly, we are as closely related to bonobos as we are to chimpanzees.
A unique aspect of bonobo society is that they are a female-dominated species thanks to the network of support that exists between bonobo females. Chimpanzee females are largely isolated from one another, but bonobo females come to one another’s aid. While there may be genetic differences that account for the lack of sexual coercion in bonobos, one important factor is the different environment that promotes these cooperative networks and limits the usefulness of male coercion (see my interview with Frans de Waal for more on this topic). Male bonobos mate more frequently by gaining support from these female networks rather than using sexual coercion as can be found in chimpanzees. Males grow up with this “culture” and observe the older males in their troop emphasize grooming over aggression and then adapt their own behavior in order to maximize their reproductive success.But even among baboons, where sexual violence is common, where the physically dominant male forces females into sexual relations, there is a clear pattern of learned behavior that can be unlearned in a single generation (as related by Robert Sapolsky in his essay “A Natural History of Peace” for the journal Foreign Affairs [pdf here] and cited in Scientific American, July 20, 2011):
Male baboons have been known to viciously maul a female that has rejected their advances and the level of male aggression is strongly correlated with their mating success. However, in a unique natural experiment Stanford primatologist Robert Sapolsky observed what developed when the largest and most aggressive males died out in a group known as Forest Troop (because they were feeding at the contaminated dump site of a Western safari lodge). In the intervening years Forest Group developed a culture in which kindness was rewarded more than aggression and adolescent males who migrated into the troop adopted this culture themselves.Clearly, there is a learned component to this form of behavior that is not inherent in baboon culture. So why are human males still prone to sexual violence - millennia after we have outgrown the conditions that may have supported such behavior - and why does male sexual violence seem worse in the military?
Why doesn't military structure offer some of the same protective structure against rape as civilian culture? Maybe there is something about the military culture that also produces or encourages this behavior? According to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA), the system is completely broken.
The Department of Defense estimates that more than 19,000 service members were raped or sexually assaulted in 2010. Due to a military culture heavy on retaliation and light on prosecution, only 13.5 percent of the victims report the rape.Rep. Speier says there have been many reports outlining the problems and suggesting changes, but the Pentagon has systematically ignored them.
The system of justice designed to adjudicate cases of rape in the military is in complete shambles. Victims are blamed. Assailants are promoted. Unit commanders - whose promotions are dependent on the conduct and performance of the soldiers they supervise - have an incentive to see that allegations are few and convictions are fewer. As a result, the overwhelming majority of cases get swept under the rug.
This abomination is not new. The Pentagon has largely ignored the recommendations of 18 reports on sexual assault and rape in the military over the past 16 years. As a result, the problem is now worse than ever.
It took four years and the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to finally establish a statutorily required commission to investigate reports of sexual misconduct in the military. His successor, Robert Gates, has yet to implement a statutorily required database that would centralize all reports of rapes and sexual assaults in the military.Read the whole article.
It is time for the Pentagon to stop treating legal directives as mere suggestions. And it is time for Congress to abandon its role as a bystander.
The military has issued a couple of reports that are freely available online: