Rape culture in the U.S. military

Belen Fernandez writes: Last weekend, the US Air Force’s sexual assault prevention chief was arrested on charges of sexual battery – a fitting prelude, no doubt, to the Pentagon’s just-released report on soaring sex crimes in the military.

According to the report, an estimated 26,000 sex crimes took place in 2012. This beats the previous year’s estimate by 7,000.

A 2010 Time magazine article paints a bleak picture of a military advertised by upbeat patriot-pundits as the epitome of noble altruism and teamwork:

What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water after 7 pm to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night? Or that a soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette was afraid to report it for fear she would be demoted – for having gone out without her weapon? Or that, as Representative Jane Harman puts it, “a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”

Of course, females are not the only victims of military sex crimes; 13,900 of last year’s cases were reported by men. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press reports: Lawmakers say they’re outraged that for the second time this month a member of the armed forces assigned to help prevent sexual assaults in the military is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.

The back-to-back Army and Air Force cases highlight a problem that is drawing increased scrutiny in Congress and expressions of frustration from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Lawmakers said it was time for Hagel to get tough with the military brass.

“This is sickening. Twice now, in a matter of as many weeks, we’ve seen the very people charged with protecting victims of sexual assault being charged as perpetrators,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. “It’s an astonishing reminder that the Pentagon has both a major problem on its hands and a tremendous amount of work to do to assure victims — who already only report a small fraction of sexual assaults — that they are changing the culture around these heinous crimes.

“Secretary Hagel needs to act swiftly to re-examine sexual assault services across the department to ensure that these disturbing betrayals of trust are ended,” Murray said.

Hagel said he was directing all the services to retrain, re-credential and rescreen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters, his spokesman, George Little, said after Tuesday’s announcement that a sergeant first class at Fort Hood, Texas, was accused of pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.

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