Rape in the Military: Uniformed Code of Military Injustice

You've been raped

UCMJ – Unjustly Coddling Military Jerks

If you are a woman in the military you have to put up with a lot of shit. And any women who is in the military would like to tell you this but she has to contend with a few forces which make that almost impossible, so I am going to tell you for her. And lest you think this is about all men in the military, it isn’t. I served my time in the United States Navy,  and I am certain what I am about to say does not apply to every man in the military but it does apply to enough to make it both a cautionary tale and something I am ashamed to say is happening in ever-increasing numbers.

A woman is always reminded, using subtle or not so subtle jabs, that no matter how strong she are, or how smart she are, she will never be as good as a man, no matter the job, no matter the circumstance. That a woman only has one purpose for a man and when no one is within earshot he will be only too happy to tell you. And worse, if no one is around at the time, he may even show you. Forcefully.

The military is a paternalistic and patriarchal culture which tells you, if you are a woman, without saying it, you are a second-class citizen in what should be an all-males club. No good reason is ever made for why this should be an all male club; a woman should have the same right to fight and die for what she believes in as any man and that is really what it SHOULD be about, but it almost never is.

And yes, there are those men who will be decent to you, who will act as if you are a member of the team and they will mean it, while they are with you. When they return to the male only part of the armed force, they will be forced to admit women are inferior, they will be forced to admit, through peer pressure, through limited opportunities for advancement, through working the good-ole boy network, women are less than men. If they don’t, they don’t advance either.

This is a reflection of our current society. Where advancement in the military replaces money. Power and rank is a reflection of what you can do and who has to listen to you once you become powerful enough not to have to report what you don’t want to.

So what we have a sociopathic environment in which participation requires you either play the game, find your way around it, or accept what is being done and embrace secondary sociopathic tendencies. This is how good people end up doing bad things. If you want to get ahead, you want to play with the big boys, you want the rank, you want to go as far as the military allows, you will find, winnow and cull the weak. Those who won’t tow the party line, those who won’t allow the abuse, those who fight against what the military deems to be the Darwinian method of fitness. Survival by any means, and the weak shall perish.

This is an environment ripe for rape. And rape is everywhere. And it is not just women being raped. Men are suffering the same brutal treatment and there is just as little being reported about this phenomenon. We have another article this month addressing the fact that: Men are being sexually assaulted in the military but nobody is talking about it.

Getting justice comes at a price

Any woman, at any time, can if she is unfortunate enough, be on a base where an accused rapist has already been pardoned by a base commander as a “misunderstanding” or a “lack of evidence” and reassigned here as a means of keeping the accused rapist in the military because he is a “good soldier”.

On those times when a woman is willing to fall on her sword and do whatever it takes to bring a man to justice, and can find someone in the military willing to take her case, and a man is accused and tried by the UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice), he goes to the brig (military jail) for sixty days and given a dishonorable discharge. End of story. In the civilian world he would be, if convicted, looking at ten to fifteen years for rape.

But the woman suffers a far worse fate. For standing up to her attackers and the male-dominated culture of the military, she is expelled from the service, no matter how exemplary her time in the military has been. A reason is made, post-traumatic stress disorder is the current favorite, for having women who challenge the status quo removed without question.

The ultimate affront is to find so many of the people in charge of managing military staff, or should be protecting women from the horrors of rape, are being accused of sexual harassment, assault or rape themselves. Lt Colonel Jeffrey Krunsinski was accused of approaching and assaulting a woman in a parking lot. He was the chief of the sexual assault prevention and response branch. A second sergeant at Fort Hood, Texas has been investigated for pandering, abusive sexual contact and maltreatment of subordinates.

In 2012, 26,000 cases of sexual assault are estimated to have happened with only 3,500 actually being reported. If the people being reported to are themselves rapists or willing to assault, pander, or abuse their subordinates, who are the subordinates suppose to go to for recourse?

The military has proven it lacks the moral fortitude to prosecute rapists and protect its members from rape. The Uniformed Code of Military Justice, is toothless and the structures for reporting the crimes of sexual harassment, rape, abuse, are all far too easily swept under the hierarchical rug where one abuser can protect dozens under his control, if it is in his interest to do so. Judging from the staggering numbers, it is clearly time for a change.

This unfortunately will not help the women who have been harmed, twice.

Raped, abused, mistreated, then maligned, accused of falsehoods, then watching their abuser go free and go back to work while they are escorted to their barracks, made to pack their bags and head back to their homes as failures for defending their right to not have to be abused.

These are women who have made a sacrifice, sometimes of family, to be away from home, to handle harsh physical conditions, tolerate cultures which may not give them the same respect as men, and yet they persevere, they endure, they carry the standards of a military which is supposedly out making the world safer for everyone. They are going to the hardest work you could ever learn to love, protecting a nation whose internal workings are not designed to protect them.

Is this the best we can do?

It better not be. I didn’t serve my nation to watch the supposed best we have to offer become the worst in my lifetime.  All of you so-called leaders at the Pentagon with your shiny brass and all too impressive breadboards, you are not living up to the standards I was willing to die for. You were fond of telling me while I was a member of the military to give it my all, to fight the good fight until there was nothing left. Well, gentlemen. I would say you have come up short. This cannot be your all.

There are women and men who are depending on you to lead them into battle, whether it be on foreign soil or in a domestic barracks. They are expecting to be safe with the men under your commands, expecting no matter what conditions they may find themselves, the last thing they will be forced to do is endure indignities and assaults.

The time where this could be considered acceptable is over. Just so we are clear, it was never acceptable. But what I have learned about large organizations, is they stay the same until someone acknowledges there is a problem. We are now aware there is a problem and it must be done away with. The same way we did away with keelhauling as a cruel and unnecessary punishment, the same way we did away with slavery as an affront to our nation’s ethical standards, the same way we stopped putting children in unsafe conditions in coal mines and factories, we must now stop accepting rape as a price of service in the military.

The fear of assault undermines the very fabric of trust necessary on the field of battle. It destroys the sense of pride and honor every soldier, male or female, wants to have when they don their uniform or gird their loins for battle. Armies win battles, face enemies, withstand hardship based on the strength of their morale. Sexual harassment, assault, and rape, if they are a hidden part of your culture undermines morale, destroying your military from within. You must stop this, lest one day you find no one willing to serve.

My commanding officers were fond of reminding me we were part of the finest fighting forces on Earth. I think its time for the leaders of the Pentagon and of the civilian agencies which provide oversight to the military, to take another look.

Some of the shine has worn off. I am certain you still extol your troops to do better, daily. I remind you now, of the same. Do better.

Thaddeus Howze, Operations Specialist Third Class, retired, USN


The Invisible War, documentary, June 2012

The academy-award nominated documentary has helped bring the military’s rape crisis to national attention. Filmmakers interviewed victims and military personnel to reveal the overwhelming obstacles to prosecuting military rape, and how inadequate efforts have been so far to curbing sexual assault.

Trauma Sets Female Veterans Adrift Back Home, New York Times, February 2013

According to the Pentagon report, 48,100 women (and 43,700 men) reported military sexual trauma last year, which studies say makes them nine times more likely to suffer from PTSD. This two-part New York Times series documents the struggles facing women veterans who’ve suffered from sexual assault, including homelessness and unemployment.

The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer, Rolling Stone, February 2013

The story of one naval officer’s rape details the consequences victims face for coming forward — consequences that keep most victims from reporting sexual attacks. After telling her superiors she had been raped, Rebecca Blumer was accused of lying, sexually harassed, denied promotions and ultimately discharged.

Rape victims say military labels them ‘crazy’, CNN, April 2012

A CNN investigation found another way the military handles rape accusations: labeling victims as emotionally unstable. After reporting a sexual assault, multiple service members were diagnosed with a personality disorder and discharged. Their abuse allegations were ignored.

The Enemy Within, National Journal, September 2012

What is it about the military that makes sexual assault so pervasive? The National Journal digs into the policies behind the statistics, and the legal loopholes exploited by sexual predators.

Pentagon grapples with sex crimes by military recruiters, Washington Post, May 2013

Active service members aren’t the only ones vulnerable to sexual assault. A recent series of scandals across the country exposed military recruiters accused of sexually abusing young people looking to enlist.

Betrayal in the Ranks, The Denver Post, 2004

The Denver Post spoke with more than 60 victims about their battle for justice, and the psychological trauma that lasted long after their assault. Many felt the military blamed them for their rape, while shielding their attackers from punishment.

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So where is Hagel to begin?  One problem with the military’s refusal to accept outside help is that it has led to a fox guarding the henhouse scenario.  In many cases, the very people tasked with stamping out the scourge of rape have been committing sexual crimes themselves:

Earlier this year, Virginia Messick recounted her rape at the hands of her training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base. (Her attacker is now serving a 20 year sentence for crimes involving a total of 10 women)

This month, the chief of the Air Force sexual assault prevention unit Lt. Col Jeffrey Krisinski  was arrested and charged with sexual assault.

Also this month, the manager of the sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell Lt. Col. Darin Haas was arrested and charged with stalking and violating a restraining order.

The Army is currently investigating sexual abuse educator Sgt First Class Gregory McQueen at Fort Hood, Texas, for persuading a female soldier to prostitute herself and for sexual assault of another soldier.

And, finally, Chuck Hagel has ordered a review of a case in which an Air Force general dismissed charges against a lieutenant colonel who was convicted of sexual assault. (Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was convicted by a military panel of sexual assault on a civilian employee.  He was sentenced to one year in prison and dismissed from the Air Force.  Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin reviewed the evidence and overturned the conviction.)