Thursday, February 17, 2011

In the Eyes of a Stranger, Part 1

From 17 Veterans Sue Pentagon for Indifference to Military Rapes, in Courthouse News, dated February 17, 2011:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - Seventeen veterans, male and female, claim they were raped, sexually assaulted or harassed on active duty while officials turned a blind eye to the crimes and even promoted the assailants. "After plaintiffs and other victims reported the crimes against them, they were retaliated against, drummed out of the services, or, in some tragic cases, killed," the veterans say.

The veteran-plaintiffs say Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates "failed to investigate rapes and sexual assaults, prosecute perpetrators, provide an adequate judicial system as required by the Uniform Military Justice Act, and abide by congressional deadlines to implement congressionally ordered institutional reforms to stop rapes and other sexual assaults."

Read the rest of the article; it's not too long, and the information in it is important. Congress is too compromised to do an effective job of oversight of our executive branch, which, in turn, is part of the problem, and has been for many years. If we are going to protect the people who protect us, we must take an interest and hold our elected and appointed civilian officials accountable for their failure to take care of our people in uniform.

Information on the class action lawsuit mentioned in the above article can be found at this link: Burke PLLC Military Rape Litigation.

This problem is much wider-spread than we may realize.

From Military's 'Restricted Reporting' Draws Fire, February 10, 2011:

[U.S. Army veteran Susan] Avila-Smith says of VETWOW's 3,000 veterans who were raped during their enlistment by a fellow soldier, nearly all told their commanding officers about the crime, in compliance with military law. Many, she says, described the backlash from the chain of command as worse than rape.

All too often, Avila-Smith says, commanding officers try to intimidate rape victims into silence. Commanding officers, who are judge and jury when it comes to indicting soldiers for alleged crimes while on duty, have also under-prosecuted military rape by ignoring a victim's accusation, for instance.

The result, she says, is that many who suffer military sexual assault say nothing and try to cope with the psychological aftermath on their own. A 2008 survey of 103 military sexual assault victims by the Government Accountability Office showed half never bothered to report the crime because they believed nothing would come of it and they also feared being ostracized.

Specifically, the GAO Report found

based on responses to its nongeneralizeable survey administered to 3,750 servicemembers and a 2006 DOD survey, the most recent available, that occurrences of sexual assault may be exceeding the rates being reported, suggesting that DOD and the Coast Guard have only limited visibility over the incidence of these occurrences. At the 14 installations where GAO administered its survey, 103 servicemembers indicated that they had been sexually assaulted within the preceding 12 months. Of these, 52 servicemembers indicated that they did not report the sexual assault. GAO also found that factors that discourage servicemembers from reporting a sexual assault include the belief that nothing would be done; fear of ostracism, harassment, or ridicule; and concern that peers would gossip.

Not surprising; according to the Fall/Winter 2005 edition of Connections: Military Culture and Sexual Assault Victims:

Lack of Privacy Protections

In addition to the general lack of privacy afforded victims due to the nonexistence of any rape shield protections, the military has a practice of mandatory reporting which serves to further eliminate any privacy protections that may otherwise be afforded to a victim of sexual assault. Under this practice, if a victim reports the assault to medical personnel, the military police or even a military Chaplin, that person must report the assault to the victim's command. The facts of the assault are then filtered past several more persons, within the chain of command, before finally coming to the attention of the actual commander. The offender's command also receives a report. Although discretion may be encouraged in such matters, there are few if any specific provisions in the code that prohibit any of these individuals from talking about such reports and/or disclosing the allegations amongst military personnel. Thus in a rather socially isolated environment such as the military, which already tends to subscribe to rape myths, reporting the assault can be particularly damaging and further traumatize a victim.

Understandably, for many victims mandatory reporting serves to discourage them from reporting sexual assault to military authorities. This lack of reporting gives military authorities skewed data on how prevalent sexual assault is in the United States military. It also means that many military victims report to civilian based programs and rely upon these programs for more accurate information regarding their legal rights in both the civilian and military legal systems.

A major reason why this problem is going to get worse is that our elected officials in Washington have used our wartime military for a big and controversial social experiment, that of allowing the gay/lesbian community to serve openly in the military. For years, the problems dealing with sexual assault have been buried; the likely reaction on the part of many to open service of gays and lesbians will be further assaults, now related to sexual orientation. If our "leadership" has been unable to address the problems they already had, the problems they are now creating will be a real mess.

From Culture of Rape, February 15, 2011:

...According to a 2003 study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service. Thirty percent of military women experience domestic violence. In way too many cases, the victim is punished for reporting while the perpetrator goes unpunished.

A nine-month investigative series by The Denver Post in 2004 documented how numerous soldiers had escaped imprisonment for sexual crimes over the previous 15 years, some of whom even reentered the civilian world with no lasting criminal record. In fact, in Franklin’s experience, the military punishes soldiers for DUIs more regularly and more harshly than for sexualized violence.

Rape your fellow soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coastguardsman (or -woman), but don't drink and drive while you do it, or you'll be in real trouble.

Watch this topic.

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