Eight women have sued the US MIlitary, alleging that they were harassed and assaulted after attempting to report sexual misconduct, and that the entire military power structure serves to shelter and protect sexual predators. Seven of the plaintiffs claim that while they served in the armed forces, they were victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. And they say their cases are depressingly commonplace.
While we've long known that the US Military is far from progressive when it comes to successfully integrating women into its ranks, this latest lawsuit is especially discouraging in the light of the military's purported "zero tolerance" policy and publicly renewed commitment to fighting rape. One woman involved in the suit alleges that the policy is only a smokescreen designed to protect the status quo.
Among the plaintiffs are two women who have publicly identified themselves are former Marine Corps members Ariana Klay and Elle Helmer. Klay, a former officer, says she was labeled an "adulterer" and a "slut" by her fellow soldiers. When she complained her superior, she was told to deal with it. In August of 2010, Klay says she was raped by a senior officer and a civilian friend in her home near the Marine barracks in Washington, DC. When she reported the rapes, she was told she must have invited the harassment because of her clothing. Klay grew so depressed that she eventually attempted suicide.
Helmer's story isn't any less dismaying. In 2006, she reported being raped by her commanding officer after a pub crawl and was discouraged from submitting a rape kit. She ended up being investigated for public intoxication and "conduct unbecoming."
In December, the Department of Defense announced that soldiers leveling harassment or assault allegations against fellow soldiers would have the option to quickly transfer to a different unit, so as to prevent retaliation. A military spokesperson also claims that there's a "zero tolerance" policy in place when it comes to sexual assault. It seems that the zero tolerance policy doesn't apply to the crime of rape, but to the presence of someone who dare report rape.
Let's not ask Liz Trotta what she thinks of all this.