Sexual Abuse in the Military: (Some in) the GOP on the Wrong Side – Again

130604-D-HU462-212


Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert, delivers his opening statement during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military sexual assaults, June 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp)

We have all expressed outrage, in articles and in comments, at the rampant sexual abuse scandals in the military — almost an “epidemic.”

Last year alone, the Pentagon estimated a disgraceful 26,000 cases of sexual assaults in the military, of which 6.1 percent were estimated to be on women and 1.2 percent on men.

The President said

I don’t want just more speeches or, you know, awareness programs or training — but ultimately folks look the other way…[When] we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable; prosecuted, stripped out of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It’s not acceptable.

We are all demanding that something be done about this despicable trend — perhaps take the military commander out of the process and let independent military judges handle such cases.

Well, almost all.

While some Republicans, such as Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska — both members of the Armed Services Committee — have taken a lead on pressing the Pentagon for answers, according to the Washington Post:

Others, however, have railed against this attempt to shed light on the problem. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, for example, took to the Senate floor yesterday to argue against the idea that sexual assault cases should require a different approach from other criminal behavior in the military. He is the ranking Republican on Armed Services.

“To take the commander out of the process will invite failure,” Inhofe said Monday. ”These commanders have to make decisions to send our brave troops into battle. How ludicrous is it that we would say to our commanders, you’ve got to make a decision to send one of our kids into battle where they may end up losing their lives. But however, you can’t participate in the justice system of the troops. It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Texas Senator John Cornyn sounded a similar note. “The problem is the military is a little different than other institutions and if you take accountability and responsibility out of the hands of the commanding officer, we shouldn’t do that lightly.”

The Post notes that in opting for the status quo in this matter, these two Republican senators face “a substantive problem — the status quo has been a detriment to women in the military — and a political one,” and expands:

In addition to its opposition to abortion and expanded contraceptive services, the GOP will be on record as unwilling to take steps to deal with sexual assault in the military. When you combine this with rhetoric from activists like Erick Erickson of Redstate.com, you have an overarching approach that promises to further alienate women from the GOP. It’s as if some Republicans are actively trying to take the party’s weaknesses, and amplify them.

What are such “party’s weaknesses”?

The Republican Party is on bad terms with a long list of voters. It has no credibility with African Americans, almost none with young voters, little with Hispanics, and is on the rocks with women. The latter is partially a result of positions taken by GOP politicians — in particular, the nationwide push to restrict abortion access and the fight last year over Planned Parenthood, Sandra Fluke, and the administration’s contraception mandate.

And, while, since the election, “Republicans have made small rhetorical moves toward repairing their standing with women voters, by emphasizing proposals meant to improve life for mothers and children,” and while “[t]here’s no evidence — yet — that this has been effective,” the rhetoric of these two GOP senators on the sexual abuse scandal in the military, threatens to undo any gains — if there have been any — according to the Post.

Read more here

Edited to add image

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

Share This Post On

11 Comments

  1. The rug sweepers are out in full force. They don’t want to solve the problem in the military, they want to HIDE it…ASAP.
    “Republicans have made small rhetorical moves”…..”proposals meant to improve”…blah,blah. That’s all they ever do is talk and try to placate the outraged people they hold in such total disregard, whether it is women, minorities, poor, elderly, whatever.

  2. DDW I have to say I am very surprised at the level of sexual abuse. As you know I was in the Air Force in the 80′s and even then it was impressed upon that this was not something acceptable. We had yearly mandatory movies and lectures going over not just sexual abuse but also fraternization and sexual discrimination, stressing that even the appearance of wrongdoing was unacceptable and would carry heavy consequences.

    I think non-military might have an impression that these things are generally accepted in the military with a wink and a nod, but that was not my experience at all. The Air Force really did try to address this stuff, at least at my base. I am not disputing the numbers at all, rather I’m saying I’m surprised by how poorly the military’s efforts to improve these issues have turned out.

  3. “I think non-military might have an impression that these things are generally accepted in the military with a wink and a nod, but that was not my experience at all. The Air Force really did try to address this stuff, at least at my base. I am not disputing the numbers at all, rather I’m saying I’m surprised by how poorly the military’s efforts to improve these issues have turned out.”

    Such was my experience, too. DG — that this “stuff” was not tolerated.

    While I hope that the “non-military” don’t think that sexual abuse and harassment are “generally accepted” in the military, the data certainly would lead one to believe that the enforcement of laws and regulations against such abuse certainly has not been very effective.

  4. A poor and poorly educated class entering the military and the dehumanizing effect of multiple deployments to war zones could account for part of the problem. The rest is the fact that the military brass has the same mind-set as the Catholic church’s brass with the same results; protection of the perpetrator rather than the victim.

    The only difference is the church’s victims can and did sue which changed things. I don’t think that is allowed in the military; maybe Congress can change that.

  5. “protection of the perpetrator rather than the victim”

    I think it has to do with protecting the institution’s reputation.

  6. zusaI That, also, but the real problem is that the victims increase when the perpetrators are not stopped. And in both cases, it seems outside intervention is necessary.

  7. I have two daughters and a wife and cannot condone sexual abuse or harassment, anywhere. I am trying to understand why the numbers appear so high in the military and why so many cases are not acted on to satisfaction.

    Dorian, do you think that the young age of so many in the military make the population more like that of a college campus than a corporation? The risk of sexual assault or harassment on college campus is very high.

    As well, is it true that what amounts to sexual assault in the military might not rise to that level when we are dealing with the FBI or local police. If a co-ed is pinched on the butt at a fraternity party and feels sexually assaulted, the police may not bring a sexual assault case forward, no matter how angry the one pinched becomes. But in the military, rightly that is listed as sexual assault. I wonder if the military has a higher assault rate or are civilians held to a lower standard and under reported?

    I asked my brother, who retired as a Rear Adm. and served on carriers off and on for thirty years about this issue. He agrees with all of us that the problem is an enormous one. In his day, there were less women serving and the ones that did were not as often house in such confined areas with men.

    As well, when you have men in leadership roles in the military being unfaithful, and politicians tweeting nude images of themselves, it’s hard to imagine we will ever be rid of sexual misconduct anytime soon.

  8. Hi, KP,

    First, I am not an expert.

    Second, I wish I had answers to your very legitimate questions.

    Finally, there is always the risk that when one tries to give “reasons” for some
    unsavory or criminal behavior, such explanations will easily be seen as “excuses” or condonation.

    As an example, in a previous thread, I felt very uncomfortable when just trying to clarify a point in the discussion about this very same subject.

    I said:

    Just to be clear, T.O., — not to make excuses — the 26,000 figure is an extrapolation from a survey the Pentagon conducted among 108,000 active men and women, of who 6.1 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men said they had experienced sexual assault in the past year, which the survey defined as everything from rape to “unwanted sexual touching” of genitalia, breasts, buttocks or inner thighs.

    “From those percentages, the Pentagon extrapolated that 12,100 of the 203,000 women on active duty and 13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty had experienced some form of sexual assault.”

    And, by the way, KP, that very comment may address some of your points in your comment: “If a co-ed is pinched on the butt at a fraternity party…”, etc.

    You also broach on the very close, almost “intimate” society — even the “confinement” aboard ships — that the military is.

    Others may try to compare sexual assault rates among military and other groups, or society at large,(Your “I wonder if the military has a higher assault rate or are civilians held to a lower standard and under reported?”) etc., etc.

    I am sure there are numerous studies “explaining”, giving “reasons” for it all.

    But the bottom line, at least with me, is that regardless, the military must be “better than that.” No excuses!

  9. I have a friend who was a JAG officer. While never getting into any specifics, he told me the amount of rape in the military shocked him, as well as the extent to which it puts up hurdles for prosecuting it. He will never let his daughters or any woman he knows get near signing up for the military after his stint.

    That being said, how wonderful of the Ayyotte and Fischer to take a look at a broken thing and say, “we can’t change it because then it would be different than it was before”. This to me is the core of the conservative system. To conserve, to keep the same, often because it is comfortable and change is scary. Its how all vibrant systems become stagnant and lose their edge.

  10. Thanks for understanding I wasn’t making excuses. I worded my comment carefully for that very reason, starting with the first sentence.

    I am highlighting how poorly all men and women in America are combating sexual abuse. Then, whether the military is even worse than the dismal record rest of America is compiling.

    I bring up age in the military and college campuses because by some reports about 25% of American college males admitted to sexual coercion in some form. Another study done by the National Institute of Justice estimated that 20-25% of women in college are victims of sexual assault.

    Having met my wife in college and after just having two daughters spend four years at university, I wouldn’t tell them not to go to college but I sure as hell was concerned for them and we discussed the dangers.

    “But the bottom line, at least with me, is that regardless, the military must be “better than that.” No excuses!”

    AGREE!

  11. KP, I know you were not making excuses.

    I agree,with everything you say, especially with the bottom line.

Submit a Comment