The Joint Chiefs were up on the Hill earlier this week, talking to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the huge problem of rape and sexual assault in the military (the DoD and VA have “niced” this up by inventing the term “Military Sexual Trauma”).
You can watch the full 8 hours of testimony by clicking here.
Women and men in the military face the very strong likelihood that they will be raped or sexually assaulted while in the military. In 2012, 26,000 military service members were raped or sexually assaulted. This is up from 19,000 in 2011. 1 in 3 female servicemembers are raped or sexually assaulted while in the military.
This problem passes through to the VA, as well. 1 in 3 claims for PTSD due to a rape or sexual assault are granted, at an average impairment rating of 10% – 50%. Compare that to combat related PTSD – 1 out of every 2 claims for PTSD due to combat experiences are granted, at an average impairment rating of 70-100%.
The issue has come to a head, and 2 Bills are currently before Congress:
1) Ruth Moore Act. Passed the House on June 4, 2013, is now before the Senate. This bill would alter the burden of proof for PTSD resulting from rape so that it is very similar to the burden of proof for Veterans with combat-related PTSD. In other words, victims of rape don’t have to corroborate their rape if their treating physician says that their PTSD is because of rape).
2) National Defense Authorization Act. Simplistically stated, this is the bill that funds the Department of Defense. Some Senators have proposed a “markup” to the NDAA called the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013. This act would do a few things:
– Require the Secretary of Defense to retain restricted reports of sexual assault for at least 50 years.
– Establishes policy regarding the disposition of sexual assault cases through courts martial;
– Prohibit service in the Armed Forces by individuals previously convicted of a sexual offense.
Ultimately, the best solution is to do what every other First World and Civilized Country in the world already does: modify the UCMJ to remove jurisdiction to prosecute rape from the Chain of Command and give it to private civilian authorities (i.e., District Attorneys and prosecutors).
What the Chiefs said.
The Chiefs didn’t really have much useful to say – they seem to feel that things are getting better and that they have all the tools they need to fix the problem of rape and sexual assault in the military.
The Chiefs hung their hat on two issues: “evidence” and “chain of command”.
As to the issue of evidence, the Chiefs seem to believe that the problem with rape in the military isn’t that it happens, or that the Commanders don’t investigate allegations or intimidate accusers or don’t punish the Sexual Predators. They believe that the problem is that there isn’t enough evidence in these “MST” cases.
The problem with this analysis is (and I saw things go down this way many times when I served in the Army) is that any time there is an allegation of rape or assault, if the alleged perpetrator denies it, it becomes a “he said, she said” and the Commander believes that there isn’t enough evidence. When there is evidence, the commanders often blame the victim for putting himself or herself in the path of a horny young troop by wearing clothes* or drinking. Worse still, there are a LOT of Commanders and NCOs in the military today that believe that women who raise allegations of rape aren’t objecting to the violent physical invasion of their body as much as they are trying to wreck a man’s career. Yes, this attitude is still prevalent.
In the end, the Chiefs want us to believe that prosecuting male soldiers charged with sexual assault and rape is too “complicated” to be handled by civilians.
The Chiefs really want to keep authority for making decisions as to guilt/innocence and punishments with the unit commanders. They believe that their Commanders are given so much authority and power that they have demonstrated that they can play the roles of prosecutor, defense and judge/jury. I wish one of the Senators would have pointed out that we don’t let Unit Commanders perform appendectomies on their troops, so why are we trusting them with important legal decisions about rape? In my opinion, the Chiefs fail to recognize that Commanders should stick to what they are best at: soldiering and war-fighting.
The Chiefs really didn’t seem to grasp the idea that the folks committing rapes and sexual assaults are anything more than ‘horny young men’ – I don’t think they “get” that rapists in the military are violent sexual predators who want only to dominate other men and women – it isn’t about sex.
Listening to the language in this testimony, I heard a lot of military double-speak. I heard talk of “Command Climate”, “Morale, Health and Welfare” issues, “Task Forces”, etc. Its too bad that there aren’t more Congressional that actually served in the military – they might have heard something very different in the Chiefs’ testimony.
For example, I heard this comment:
One Joint Chief said: “Soldiers are engaging in High Risk behavior coming out of conflict.”
TRANSLATION: Young men coming home from war just want to have sex really bad. Women are engaging in high risk behavior and putting themselves in harm’s way by wearing clothing* or having a drink of alcohol around soldiers coming home from war.
This attitude, more than anything, is the reason that commanders do not need the authority to adjudicate rape by or of a service-member.
I’ll post my thoughts on the Ruth Moore Act after the Senate holds hearings on that Bill. Can’t wait to see how much smoke the VA blows Congress’s way in these hearings.
* Women in the military can’t win. If they wear any clothing that shows any skin, they are accused of inviting sexual approaches from men. If they wear a PT Uniform, that’s being sexually suggestive as well. God forbid a female soldier wears makeup – many commanders believe that by doing so, a female soldier is giving the male a “Green Light” to rape.