April 3, 2008

Blog Against Sexual Violence Day: Rape in the Military and War Zones

Posted in military, rape and sexual violence, rape myths, victim-blaming, war at 7:00 am by LB

Blog Against Sexual Violence logo

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and today, April 3rd is Blog Against Sexual Violence Day. At the end of the day I will be posting a roundup of some of the blog posts done by those who participated.

I want to bring attention to the issue of sexual violence and war/military. It is pretty common understanding that the rape of civilian women and girls is used as a weapon of war, and is “even” used by “civilized” countries such as, I don’t know, the U.S.

But I want to bring up two stories about rape and the military/war–as in, rape in the military and in the context of war. Last week, via Think Progress:

In today’s LA Times, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) sheds light on the staggering number of sexual assaults within the military, stating, “Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq,” and calls on Congress and the military to do more to protect servicewomen:

At the heart of this crisis is an apparent inability or unwillingness to prosecute rapists in the ranks. According to DOD statistics, only 181 out of 2,212 subjects investigated for sexual assault in 2007, including 1,259 reports of rape, were referred to courts-martial, the equivalent of a criminal prosecution in the military. Another 218 were handled via nonpunitive administrative action or discharge, and 201 subjects were disciplined through “nonjudicial punishment,” which means they may have been confined to quarters, assigned extra duty or received a similar slap on the wrist. In nearly half of the cases investigated, the chain of command took no action; more than a third of the time, that was because of “insufficient evidence.” […]

The absence of rigorous prosecution perpetuates a culture tolerant of sexual assault — an attitude that says “boys will be boys.

A Department of Defense report released this month found 2,688 reports of sexual assault in the military in FY2007. According to Harman, the number of reported military rapes jumped 73 percent from 2004 to 2006.

WOW. The percentage of reports actually pursued is pathetic and discouraging for women who may be unsure about if they want to go through the emotional trauma of coming forward. Add this to the Haliburton rape-coverup and the unprosecuted rape of another Haliburton employee in Iraq from 2007, and sexual violence against women seems to more the rule in war-zones less than a deviation, and the common resolution is…nothing.

In August 2007, a female Air Force Airman 1st Class who had reported being raped, then decided not to testify at the court martial was then charged by the Air Force with committing indecent acts with the men she had said raped her.

In written statements to her attorneys, the three accused airmen call the sex consensual. One said Hernandez wore “skin tight” clothes, danced in a “promiscuous way” and later stripped naked.

Hernandez said that is not how it happened.

“What those guys did was wrong. There’s nothing worse than being raped and people not believing you,” she said.

A book author and researcher on rape issues who is helping Eason and Ashmawy, John Foubert, said that charging a rape victim with having consensual sex “when the evidence clearly points the other way is an insult to every American and every individual who has worn the uniform.”

What’s makes this even better is the slutting of the rape victim by her perpetrators. They pull the classic victim-blaming: “her clothing and behavior meant she was asking for it” line, a misconception about rape that continues to persist, and perpetuates the (wrong) assumption that rape is about sex, or it is just sex (so without any “actual” violence–as if rape as forced sex isn’t violence itself–it’s not “that bad”), or that it’s sex “gone wrong.” NO: rape is about power, control, dominance, and male privilege. Rape is not sex; in rape, sex is the weapon.

And as other bloggers have suggested, the default assumption regarding sex is “no.” Radical, huh? Shouldn’t be, but in a culture where we think a woman’s clothing and “flirtations” trump actually, I don’t know, asking if she wants to have sex, I suppose it is. But I guess this is how women look when it is assumed that their sexuality revolves around the desires of men–that sexual availability is assumed unless you are wearing a potato sack, and that women who dress or act sexual are doing so for the benefit of the men around her so that she doesn’t have the right to say no. Men not being privy to a woman’s blatant sexuality, and therefore taking it by force? That’s an issue of power, not sex.

And when the military is the beacon of masculine power, it’s no wonder the ladies are “put in their place,” and the argument against women in the military is reiterated. Not that it’s the military that needs to change, no, never…

UPDATE:Today The Nation posted a web-only story on another rape by two defense contractors for KBR/Haliburton who was told by her supervisor to keep quiet about the rape.

Currently, she has forty US contractor employees in her database who have contacted her alleging a variety of sexual assault or sexual harassment incidents–and claim that Halliburton, KBR and SEII have either failed to help them or outright obstructed them.

Most of these complaints never see the light of day, thanks to the fine print in employee contracts that compels employees into binding arbitration instead of allowing their complaints to be tried in a public courtroom. Criminal prosecutions are practically nonexistent, as the US Justice Department has turned a blind eye to these cases.


Another UPDATE: I wanted to pass along these disturbing stats posted from RAINN in a post from Shakesville,


But seriously — why is it that whenever legislation comes up that might ameliorate the appallingly low rate of rape convictions, the first thing we hear is “But what about false allegations?!?!?”

Get real. Get informed. Here are some handy nauseating facts about rape/sexual assaults in the US:

There were 272,350 sexual assaults (64,080 were completed rapes) reported in 2006, according to the DOJ National Crime Victimization Survey (these numbers do not include victims 12 years or younger).

60% of rapes/sexual assaults not reported to the police.

If a rape is reported, there is a 50.8% chance of an arrest.
If an arrest is made, there is an 80% chance of prosecution
If there is a prosecution, there is a 58% chance of conviction
If there is a felony coviction, there is a 69% chance the convict will spend time in jail.

So, even in the 39% of attacks that are reported to the police, there is a 16.3% chance the rapist will end up in prison.

Factoring in unreported rapes, about 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail — 15 of 16 walk free.~ www.rainn.org

This is pathetic. And depressing. And more reason I get sick over the rape apologists who say feminists have us in a tizzy over nothing, and that the fact that women can ruin a man’s life over false rape allegations is improperly addressed by feminists (’cause I guess the fact that some people lie about stuff sometimes needs feminist theorizing), and that it is in some way feminists fault for “creating” a rape epidemic over “sex”…..yeah, it gets me.

cross-posted at The Reaction

2 Comments »

  1. Marcella Chester said,

    Thanks for this post, it’s a great part of the BASV day. Those who volunteer to serve our country shouldn’t have to worry about being raped by those they work with and who they can’t just leave if the work environment gets hostile.

  2. elizabeth said,

    I think it is really sad to be hearing about this in the military, it is a place where people are supposed to be treated well and where they are supposed to be safe. Soldiers should take care of each other. It is depressing how government dont do anything, and instead of helping women(victim), they help men when they are the ones that should get the punishment.


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