We recently wrote a light-hearted post on sexual orientation in the American military. We stated emphatically that the Problem is Heterosexuals in the Military. Perhaps we were only a little light-hearted – there are serious issues surrounding all military bases. But more has come to light in recent congressional hearings concerning the sexual abuse of female military members. There are shocking revelations about the rape of military women who joined our military to help protect our country.
The most succinctly written commentary on the subject was written by Nancy Gibbs of Time Magazine. Her essay ‘The War Within’ provides brief but telling statistics and attitudes. Here is her opening paragraph:
What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night? Or that a soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette was afraid to report it for fear she would be demoted — for having gone out without her weapon? Or that, as Representative Jane Harman puts it, “a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”
It is striking that the big news around gender in the military suffocates us with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We joked in our previous post that the problem is with heterosexuals – but something else seems to be at play. Rape is not considered a ‘sexual act’ – but rather is a violent act of power and control. Well – that might tell us something, after all, our military is all about violence for power and control. Gibbs flirts with this issue:
Experts offer many theories for the causes: that military culture is intrinsically violent and hypermasculine, that the military is slow to identify potential risks among raw young recruits, that too many commanders would rather look the other way than acknowledge a breakdown in their units, that it has simply not been made a high enough priority. “A lot of my male colleagues believe that the only thing a general needs to worry about is whether he can win a war,” says Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of the Armed Services Committee. “People are not taking this seriously. Commanding officers in the field are not understanding how important this is.”
CNN has also reported on the issue of Sexual Assault in the Military. They also quote Representative Harman:
Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, spoke before a House panel investigating the way the military handles reports of sexual assault.
She said she recently visited a Veterans Affairs hospital in the Los Angeles area, where women told her horror stories of being raped in the military.
“My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41 percent of the female veterans seen there say they were victims of sexual assault while serving in the military,” said Harman, who has long sought better protection of women in the military.
We read the essay in Time Magazine and decided to ‘google’ the issue. We were shocked to find that this issue is plastered on the WEB but continues to garner only modest attention by the media. Are the problems facing our country so blatant that the safety of 15% of our soldiers is not big news? Given the nature of our media and the sexual overtones of the issue – we are surprised. The media seems to love any sex story – ask Tiger Woods what he thinks about this. Or how about Representative Massa – the latest of the fools in Congress to walk the line of charges about inappropriate sexual behavior. The charges against Tiger Woods and Representative Massa are trivial compared to the gross assaults on women in the military.
As we sought information on this issue we found that few of the major media outlets have bothered with reporting on this issue. We mentioned Time and CNN. The BBC also has worthy reporting. The author, Helen Benedict has written a wonderful expose titled, “The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq.” From her WEB site:
In The Lonely Soldier, Benedict humanizes the complex issues of war, misogyny, class, race, homophobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more through the compelling stories of five women of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. By following these women from their childhoods through enlistment, training, active duty in Iraq, and home again, Benedict vividly brings to life their struggles and challenges. Between their stories she weaves in accounts from numerous other Iraq War veterans, illuminating the wrenching and private war of female soldiers.
The problem is not about heterosexuals or homosexuals. The problem is two-fold: One – the culture of masculine violence that permeates the American Military. And Two – the blind eye of the military turned toward the archaic notion of what it means to ‘be a man.’
The past generation has seen increasing legislation concerning convicted sex offenders which might offer some ideas for legislation concerning military bases. For instance, sex offenders cannot live withing 1000 feet of schools. Perhaps we might benefit from legislation that prohibits certain business establishments from locating near military bases. These might include pornography shops selling sex trinkets, XXX videos, and strip clubs. While we are at it perhaps we could limit pay-day loan sharks, cheap housing in trailer parks, abusive used car lots… And perhaps a part of basic training for the military would be a seminar or two on the corrupt practices of parasites that make their living on innocent young soldiers.
There is a culture which surrounds all Military bases – both from the nature of a military and from the parasites that promote wanton behavior. The Department of Defense has let our soldiers down. Preparing a soldier for combat is not the only responsibility of the DOD – preparing the soldier for all aspects of life seems appropriate. Some media outlets have reported on payday loan issues – like this video from CBS. The interest by the media concerning the health and safety of tens of thousands of American women seems to take a back seat to other issues which are easier to address.
This would be a good place for any active duty or former military personnel to speak out – Is there a problem, and what are reasonable solutions?