***WARNING: POSSIBLE RAPE TRIGGERS***
The latest and greatest outrage is sexual assaults in the military – the problem with the “new” outrage is that this is not a new problem. Sexual assaults are simply part of being in the military. This is true for women, but it is also very true for men. I am pretty sure I can pinpoint the problem that the military will refuse to acknowledge. Alcohol.
I had a ton of sexual adventures during my 15 years of service. Some of those adventures were uninvited – but ALL of them involved alcohol. My therapist doesn’t like that I take responsibility for what happened to me (the uninvited advances), but I do. I have to. I knew full well what I was doing, and what it would result in. I just saw it as part of the ‘culture’. I never reported those who took advantage of me, because I never fully blamed them. I blame booze. Lots and lots of booze.
So while many women in the military may go out and get hammered with their comrades, then find themselves in a compromising position many women and men won’t report it for the same exact reasons I didn’t. Even though waking up from being blackout drunk to find yourself naked is traumatic – I would say most of the time victims won’t even remember what happened and the person who took advantage, probably has no idea that there was no actual consent given.
Now please don’t take this post the wrong way. Drunk or not, sexual assault and rape happen everyday in the military; I am just saying that a lot of it is due to the wide acceptance and overall encouragement to drink yourself into oblivion on a regular basis. There are many real sexual predators out there who don’t wait for their victim to be drunk, and I am not in anyway trying to minimize the trauma victims face even if alcohol was involved. I would however love to test a theory though – outlaw alcohol and allow weed and I bet the sexual assault numbers would drop like a rock. Really, you would just have to worry about actual sexual predators and not a bunch of drunk service members.
The people who assaulted me were my friends. We were drunk. Now I know there is a lot of argument about how it isn’t okay to rape someone because you are drunk. I fully understand that it is not an excuse for rape, but at the same time, I can’t in good conscience put the blame solely on my ‘attackers’ because in all honesty I don’t think they thought twice about it. Hell for all I know these guys still think I consented. Like I said, I had two incidences where I woke up to sexual activity. I had a million more incidences where I was a willing (but drunk) participant. Willing, awake, whatever – these guys aren’t sexual predators – they are young drunk men with young drunk women all hanging out together. It is a recipe for sexual assault. It is a recipe for under/non-reporting. I will also fully admit that I was the instigator in many of my sexual adventures – my partners may have taken it farther then I intended, however, I still feel that I should bear some responsibility for all that. I choose to get drunk. I choose to drink so much that I was no longer in control of my own thoughts and actions, and I let alcohol dictate who I slept with and when. I happen to get hyper-sexual when I drink. Also, we all know that alcohol lowers our inhibitions and we do things while drunk we would never even consider when we are sober. My alcoholism was my real attacker, not my drunk friends. I hold no animosity towards them, and with one of them we even discussed what happened and I informed him that had I been a different girl – he would be in a shitload of trouble. I truly love these guys, and we had drunken sex adventures before – just because I was too drunk to be present, they were pretty sure I think that what they were doing was okay with me. It wasn’t predatory behavior – it was just a bunch of drunk people making bad decisions.
For the real sexual predators, the military is a great place for them – especially if they stay in long enough to gain enough rank that accusations against them will be seen as more trouble than they are worth. Why ruin a career over some girl who says she was raped? I mean, this guy has spent his entire life serving his country and this girl is trying to ruin him. Case dismissed. So if you are a woman (of any rank) or a young man low in rank – your pleas will fall on deaf ears and you will probably face a ton of harassment from your fellow service members and leaders for starting trouble. It is just easier, and in some cases wiser to just keep your mouth shut. It that right? No way. Does it need to be changed? Absolutely.
The way to change it is to take the power away from the commander when it comes to prosecuting these allegations. The military doesn’t like this strategy at all. Military “justice” is the most partial and biased system of criminal justice ever conceived and it’s main goal is to protect career service members while nearly executing the junior enlisted for the most minor infractions. You will get in more trouble for being late to formation then you will if you rape someone. That’s how it works. So if you know how it works, you also know that reporting sexual assault will go nowhere and it will only ruin your own career. Who wants that? Then, add alcohol to the mix, and the accuser is just as guilty as the accused – and in most cases the accuser will be punished for bringing false allegations (even if they aren’t false at all). In he said/she said cases in the military the one with the highest rank is the one you believe; unless you are a woman, then even if you outrank your abuser you still have to PROVE that you didn’t invite the sexual advance – were you drunk? Case closed. So basically, even if someone is brave enough to report their abuse, it will most likely end up in a draw- so why put yourself through that when you know it will only lead to your life being WORSE? I would say a good majority of service members opt for silence for that reason alone.
So lets say that you bring an accusation and it actually leads to a court martial (hahaha), but for the sake of argument lets pretend. A “jury” in a military court martial is composed usually of career level commissioned officers. If you are an enlisted person – especially a junior enlisted person, the ‘jury’ is already stacked against you. These are not your peers. These are your leaders. They have no respect for you, and are not worried about you or your career. They are however concerned that their day is ruined, and they can’t get to their latest PowerPoint masterpiece, and they probably highly depend on that mid-grade NCO you are accusing of raping you or God forbid your attacker is a commissioned officer (their peer) – they don’t even need to hear the details of the case. So were you drunk? Case dismissed.
I think every military ‘jury’ in a court martial case should be made up like this, 2 junior enlisted, 2 junior NCO’s, 2 Senior NCO’s, 2 junior officers, 2 mid-grade officers, and 2 senior officers. For non-judicial punishment (article 15′s usually presided over by the commander) should consist of six instead of twelve with the same rank spread (one of each instead of two). The other rule should be that these juries or panels should be made up of service members not associated with the units of the accused or the accuser. We get rid if unit bias, and we also minimize favoritism based on rank alone. I bet a lot more cases would make it through to punishment if this was the case. It will never happen, but one can dream right?
If you want to see less sexual assault in the military, the entire military culture needs to change. From outdated and misogynistic views on women, to rampant alcohol abuse, to a ‘protect our own’ mentality – these are staples of military service. To eliminate these three things would pretty much put an end to sexual assaults (especially ones that happened because of alcohol) and those who are actual sexual predators (raping girls in the porta-pots on deployment- that happened a lot) well they would actually be in danger of getting in trouble. Right now they aren’t; they are safe because our military justice system sucks and is created to be unfair and biased.
So expect a lot of lip service from government about how they are taking this seriously. Expect senior military leaders to pop up on CNN and tout what they are doing to curb sexual assault, but don’t fall for any of it. This culture has been the way it is since George Washington led his troops over the Delaware, and it isn’t going to change anytime soon.