May 27, 2013
According to a report released by the Pentagon earlier this month, there are 70 sexual assaults in the military every day – that is, three every hour. The report added that 26,000 service members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012.
More women soldiers are raped by their “fellow” soldiers than die in combat. And then after they are raped, they are often blamed for the assault – and if they dare to report the rape, they are punished, sometimes accused of adultery.
A recent documentary, The Invisible War, brought to light the enormous problem of sexual assault and rape in the U.S. military. Sexual assault and rape in the military are in no way a new phenomenon. Several years ago there was a movie about the Vietnam War showing a brutal rape of a Vietnamese woman by U.S. soldiers. During World War II, U.S. soldiers raped women in countries like France even as they supposedly “liberated” their nation.
No, this is not new for the military, this is normal. It is a reflection of what war is and of the status of women in this society. All armies and all wars have targeted women. The saying about rape and pillage in war is not just cliché, it is reality. Men come into the military with sexist attitudes. And those attitudes get reinforced, encouraged and glorified.
In his commencement address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, President Obama said, “Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong.” Obama can preach all he wants. But when the director of the sexual assault prevention program for the U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Krusinski, was himself detained for sexually assaulting a woman not far from the Pentagon, it shows that this behavior is not from a few bad individuals. It is far more pervasive and entrenched within this militarized society.