According to an NPR report, citing the Pentagon: (emphasis added throughout)
About 19,000 sex crimes take place in the military each year. … Many of the victims are male, but men in the service face the same risk of sexual assault as civilian men do. It’s a different story for women. Women who join the military face a much higher risk of sexual assault than civilian women.
Gen. Gary Patton, who heads the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, is quoted:
‘It’s a complex problem because it involves a culture change. We have to see a culture change where those victims of this crime are taken seriously at their unit level by every member of their unit, so you don’t see the divisiveness and the lack of support and the feeling of isolation that these victims feel.’
Earlier this month Congressmember Jackie Speier (CA-D) introduced the Military Judicial Reform Act. From the Military Rape Crisis Center:
… (T)he Military Judicial Reform Act (would) … strip military commanders of their power to overturn legal decisions or lessen sentences handed down by judges and juries at courts martial. It’s inspired by the recent case of a lieutenant general at Aviano Air Base overturning the sexual-assault conviction of an officer who had been sentenced by a jury of his peers to a year in prison and dismissal from the service.
Even convicted rapists are protected by some of those in positions of power in the military.
The NPR report includes this:
Dora Hernandez gave a decade of her life to the U.S. Navy and the Army National Guard, but some of the dangers surprised her.
‘The worst thing for me is that you don’t have to worry about the enemy, you have to worry about your own soldiers,’ she says. …
Dozens of women interviewed for this story spoke about a culture where men act entitled to sex with female troops. …
Women in the military face a higher risk of being raped multiple times, according to the Pentagon’s research.
Curious, I checked into the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), and its director, Major General Gary Patton.
SAPRO is the Department of Defense’s single point of accountability and oversight for sexual assault policy matters and reports to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. SAPRO develops policy and programs that address the Department’s sexual assault prevention, accountability, victim assistance, and assessment efforts.
Major General Patton’ s 33 year service as an “infantry officer” includes “command at multiple levels and 45 months of combat duty in Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM.” Between that combat duty assignment and his move to SAPRO,
… Patton was the Principal Director, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy. He was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Department’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
To a non-military person, Patton certainly sounds like someone who has experience in what would be considered controversial areas, like the repeal of DADT, and now SAPRO. The NPR report, along with information at, for one other example, the Military Rape Crisis Center, clearly reveal there is a great deal of work to be done. The “command’s attitude toward rape” discussed by the women in the NPR story is as one in which “men act entitled to sex with female troops.” It
… is why most victims don’t report. They see a chain of command and a military justice system that almost never gets justice for victims, while often allowing perpetrators to stay in the service.
You know, kind of like allowing perpetrators of, say, pedophilia to stay in the clergy. Or the guy in management everyone knows routinely harasses female employees to keep his position and probably get promoted. Or the law enforcement officer who treats women who report domestic violence as the criminal. It isn’t that the military has an exclusive on this “cultural attitude,” but it is a unique system, and clearly in need of some major attitude adjustment.
(Military Rape Crisis Center logo via MRCC)