Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sexual Violence Against Women and Men in the Military

Article "US Military Named in Class Action Lawsuit | BlogHer"

Posted by: ""   radman94606

Fri Mar 4, 2011 9:59 am (PST)

US Military Named in Class Action Lawsuit

In early January, when the scandal over raunchy videos shown on a ship's
closed circuit television broke, I concluded that the US military is
essentially a ginormous, government-funded frat house that also fights
wars on our behalf. I was wrong. It is much worse than that.

Jesse Ellison at The Daily Beast reports that 17 women have filed a
class action lawsuit against current Defense Secretary Robert Gates and
his predecessor Donald "My New Book Says Nothing Is My Fault" Rumsfeld,
stating that the "military's repeated failures to take action in rape
cases created a culture where violence against women was tolerated,
violating the plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights." The evidence is grim.
Department of Defense statistics indicate that reported sexual assaults
increased 11 percent in 2009, meaning that at least one in three women
have been sexually violated while serving in the military.
They believe
that the reported assaults account for only 20% of the assaults against

It is not just women who are sexually assaulted, either. More than half
of those who screen positive for Military Sexual Trauma are men,
according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' data. For many,
many reasons, sexual crimes committed against men are reported even less
than those against women. Clearly something is wrong with the military's

What can be done? Rebeka Havrilla, one of the plaintiffs, told Ellison
that she filed the lawsuit hoping that one outcome will be that the
military will outsource sexual assault training. She explains:

“Someone who is a misogynistic asshole isn’t going to change their minds
because of some PowerPoint presentation. But at that point, at least you
can’t claim ignorance. There’s no wishy-washy ‘Oh, it’s just boys being
boys.’ If you have a leadership that doesn’t give a shit, nothing’s
going to change. It has to start from the top down.”

My Duty to Speak, a site that publishes testimonials of survivors of
military sexual assault, has the story of another one of the plaintiffs
in the lawsuit. GallusMag at GenderTrender reminds readers that fewer
than one in five cases is even referred for a court martial. The Service
Women's Action Network
is working overtime to change this culture and
protect the servicewomen who are protecting us. When anyone signs up for
military duty, they take on enough risks and stresses. Being attacked by
their colleagues should never, ever happen, and if it does, it should be
dealt with in a way that lets perpetrators know that this is not, under
any circumstances ever acceptable.

This brings me back to two questions I raised back in January: 1) Is it
possible to have a military that is not rooted in a misogynist,
homophobic culture
? Has that ever happened in history anywhere? I still
don't have an answer for that, but I hope someone does. I think it is
interesting. Certainly ancient Greek militaries were not homophobic. 2)
Even if historically all military cultures were rooted in some sort of
adolescent male fantasy land because there was a reason for it based on
the type of combat, is that true today when so many things require
education, logistics, and technology rather than brute force?

Some might say that the answer to the problem is to prevent women from
serving. That ignores the fact that so many men are also raped. It's not
about sex but gender norms. As long as we have a culture in which men
try to prove they are men by abusing others, we will have these
problems. As military experts point out, trauma and lack of unit
cohesion undermine military effectiveness in the long term. Somehow I
don't think this system makes sense for anyone.

Suzanne also blogs at CUSS and Other Rants and is the author of Off the
Beaten (Subway) Track.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore | Original for BlogHer

Via InstaFetch

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