Rape in the US Military
Previously published on May 29, 2013
Looking at the current sexual assault epidemic in the US military, growing public outrage is finally beginning to force reforms onto the military; however, it is difficult to understand why this criminal behavior has been allowed to fester in what should be our most trustworthy institute. First of all, it is important for us to understand the military culture is an isolated subculture of society due to its command structure, abnormal social environment, training requirements, stressful deployment schedules, and extensive responsibilities. Like many subcultures of a society, the military social environment forces members to adopt its own rules while it offers unique protections in turn. As such, the interests of the broader American culture and the American military culture can conflict at times. The unfortunate reality is, however, that our society's growing tendency to avoid conflict could easily allow serious issues, such as sexual assault, to go unresolved by our public officials and military leadership.
Where our society has learned to treat sex crimes as serious social issues and criminal offenses, the US military is struggling to address conflicting external and internal interests. Quite frankly, the sacrificial nature of military service creates a situation where we are inclined to want to overlook the wrongdoings of US servicemen and women, especially when those wrongdoings occur in a war zone. After all, extreme stress and harsh environments push people to engage in behaviors they would otherwise never consider. At the same time, the isolated nature of the military subculture encourages military commanders to protect their subordinates from the outside world. In doing so, the perpetrators of sexual assaults are protected at the expense of victims. For military personnel, who are victims of sexual assaults, these injustices are doubly harmful as both our broader society and their adopted subculture have failed them.
Consequently, the plight of these victims must be addressed by both the American People and their brothers/sisters-in-arms. The first step towards justice is a thorough and aggressive effort t to address conflicts of interests. In part, this means removing the ability of all commanding officers to override convictions. Any and all criminal acts must be addressed in a court of law or military tribunal by well-trained, impartial legal professionals. In addition, commanders must play a bigger role as part of the solution, instead of being the problem. This means commanders must have the authority and will to aggressively pursue anyone who has committed a sexual assault or other criminal act. Just as commanders must feel duty-bound to correct the misconduct of their subordinates in order to ensure discipline within the ranks, those entrusted with leadership responsibilities must feel the same obligation and drive to root out the sexual abuse of their follow heroes.