A recent Associated Press article, called "Sex Is Major Reason Military Commanders Are Fired," which is being picked up all over, says almost a third of fired military commanders are losing their jobs over sex. Losing your job over sex sounds kind of fun. Sounds like members of the armed services are being all that they can be by engaging in some good, old fashioned-patriotic boning. The only problem is, the article kind of confuses sex with sexual assault, and, like, helps the military sanitize its entrenched rape culture.
Just to review, rape and sexual assault are pervasive in the military. Here are some useful statistics:
- A female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.
- In October The Huffington Post calculated that a servicewoman was nearly 180 times more likely to have become a victim of military sexual assault (MSA) in the past year than to have died while deployed during the last 11 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Over 20% of female veterans have been sexually assaulted while serving in the US army.
- The Pentagon estimates that only 14 percent of the assaults are reported.
- In Fiscal Year 2011, 3,192 sexual assaults were reported out of an estimated 19,000 — roughly 52 a day! (One of the reasons that rape is so underreported is because rape victims have to report their rape to their supervisor, who is often the rapist!)
- Of 3,192 sexual-assault reports in 2011 only 191 members of the military were convicted at courts martial.
- In 2011, less than 8% of reported cases went to trial.
- Of the cases that went to trial, 191 subjects were convicted, resulting in 148 offenders serving jail sentences and 122 being discharged.
- An estimated 10% of perpetrators resigned instead of facing a courts‐martial.
- 1 in 3 convicted military sex offenders remain in the military.
One of the ways the military has tried to up its rate of conviction is by charging accused rapists with adultery. In a guest column in Foreign Policy, former Marine Intelligence officer Matt Collins writes that,
One troubling tact commanders have taken is to pursue adultery charges in rape cases. For the victims, this means that their attackers will get off on a misdemeanor conviction and do not have to register as sex offenders.... Rape victims are denied the satisfaction of the military acknowledging the crime and properly punishing the attacker.
So, this is the background. But the AP story doesn't really focus on rape. In fact, it doesn't mention the word rape one single time. It lumps together sexual assault with things like having sex and drinking and other fun things that you're not supposed to do in the military but that aren't illegal in the civilian world.
From its very opening, the article plays down the whole sexual violence thing:
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, fired from his command in Afghanistan last May and now facing a court-martial on charges of sodomy, adultery and pornography and more, is just one in a long line of commanders whose careers were ended because of possible sexual misconduct.
From reading the above, you could think that Sinclair had an adulterous but consensual relationship involving consensual sodomy. Think Oval Office plus cigar. The truth is Sinclair is facing a charge of forced sodomy (which the article clarifies later on. But it's not important enough to, you know, like mention in the sentence that sets the tone for the entire article). I know. I shouldn't be getting my feminazi panties all up in a bunch over this little "forced" word. It's like the old song, "You say Sodomy, I say forced sodomy/ you say non-rape, I say rape- rape."
The article suggests that it's "sex" and not sexual violence, that is pervasive:
Sex has proved to be the downfall of presidential candidates, members of Congress, governors and other notables. It's also among the chief reasons that senior military officers are fired.
From reading the above, you would think that affairs like the crazy and repulsive but non rape-based one between John Edwards and Rielle Hunter were rocking the military.
When the article mentions sexual harassment, it lumps it together with behavior between two consenting adults:
At least 30 percent of military commanders fired over the past eight years lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses, including harassment, adultery, and improper relationships, according to statistics compiled by The Associated Press.
The figures bear out growing concerns by Defense Department and military leaders over declining ethical values among U.S. forces, and they highlight the pervasiveness of a problem that came into sharp relief because of the resignation of one of the Army's most esteemed generals, David Petraeus...
What is this pervasive "problem"? What problem encompasses sexual harassment and consensual relationships? That men are perverts?
The article does finally mention sexual assault, but it makes it sound kinda fun, like porn, drugs and alcohol, and not that big of a deal:
The statistics from all four military services show that adulterous affairs are more than a four-star foible. From sexual assault and harassment to pornography, drugs and drinking, ethical lapses are an escalating problem for the military's leaders.
With all those offenses taken together, more than 4 in every 10 commanders at the rank of lieutenant colonel or above who were fired fell as a result of behavioral stumbles since 2005.
Oh, my bad. All of my life I've been overreacting. Turns out sexual assault is nothing more than an ethical lapse or behavioral stumble. Like talking shit about your friends, or getting drunk at the office holiday party.
If, and that's a big if, the media and military want to actually address the systemic rape culture that pervades the armed forces, they're going to have to start by addressing it, literally, by name.
Sex Is Major Reason Military Commanders Are Fired [AP]
Military Sexual Assault Epidemic Continues To Claim Victims As Defense Department Fails Females [HuffPo]
Rape in the military: exposing the shocking truth [The Guardian]
Rape, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Military [Service Women's Action Network]
Rape and the ethics of adultery, or how the military hides its rape problem [Foreign Policy]
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