Worse, the assault took place in full view of member of my chain of command, and my attacker faced absolutely no punitive actions, no Article 32 hearing,* court martial, or Non-Judicial Punishment. Not even a letter of reprimand.
One of the top stories in the media these days is the horrific wave of sexual assault plaguing the services. The media has reported as many as 26,000 cases of sexual assault have occurred last year. Congress is convinced the services have a culture where rape and sexual assault are, if not encouraged, then at least tolerated to an extent that no civilized society can endure. Some members of the Senate have moved to withdraw sexual assault cases from the military, and have them adjudicated in civilian courts. Other members of the Senate have said they could not advise their daughters to enlist or otherwise serve in the Armed Forces. And such is the savagery of the epidemic, over half of the incidents of this onslaught are male on male.
So, why is it that the military is such a culture of rape, assault and degradation? Is every male soldier a rapist, just waiting for the opportunity to terrorize and scar emotionally and physically for life a young woman who only wanted to serve her country? Has a decade of war so dehumanized our troops that they no longer see even their fellow soldiers as worthy of the most basic human decency?
But probably not.
The military is and always has been, and always will be a reflection of the society it is recruited from. If there is a cultural problem in the military, it is a reflection of a cultural problem in greater society.
There are cases of rape in the armed services. Far, far too many.
As a punitive article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 12o defines rape and sexual assault, and defines the punishments available to courts martial should they convict a service member. The maximum punishment for rape is death.**
But Article 120 also lists an array of lesser included offenses. The specific definitions of each of these lesser included offenses is often fairly technical, in a legal sense, and may not always jibe with what the layman considers to be sexual assault.
And the Pentagon’s report of 26,000 incidents is being reported in a misleading manner. The survey was of a fairly small sample group, and extrapolated to cover the entire Armed Forces, and assumes a certain arbitrary rate of non-reported incidents.
Further, the survey didn’t ask if the respondents had been raped or sexually assaulted. It asked if they’d received any unwanted sexual contact. Any unwanted sexual contact could include leering and even being asked out on a date, behavior which in the real world is at worst considered sexual harassment, or just boorish behavior.
Yet agenda driven writers such as Marcotte at the Slate article above are quick to conflate that and lead the reader to believe that tens of thousands of men are being forcibly raped when all they want to do is serve their country.
The New York Times article she links to does manage to find alleged victims of male on male rape- from the Vietnam era.
The NYT reports:
Many sexual assaults on men in the military seem to be a form of violent hazing or bullying, said Roger Canaff, a former New York State prosecutor who helped train prosecutors on the subject of military sexual assault for the Pentagon. “The acts seemed less sexually motivated than humiliation or torture-motivated,” he said.
There does seem to be a fair amount of unacceptable hazing and bullying going on in the ranks. But even the phrasing here would tend to lead the reader to think there is a level of malice present that personal experience tells me just isn’t that common.
Rick Lawson said that while he was in the Army National Guard in Washington in 2003 and 2004, he was repeatedly sexually bullied by a group of soldiers, including a sergeant who rubbed his groin into Mr. Lawson’s buttocks and jumped into his bunk and pretended to cuddle with him. Later, during preparations for deployment to Iraq, one sergeant handcuffed him and put him in a headlock while another pretended to sodomize him, Mr. Lawson said.
The brutal assault upon my person was very similar to one of these attacks. In ranks, as I bent to pick up my rucksack, a fellow soldier grabbed me from behind and thrust his groin into by buttocks.
Of course, this was back in the dark, dark days of the Evil Reagan administration, and such heinous crimes were referred to as “grabass” and “horsing around.” Rather than having the incident referred to the chain of command and the military justice system, I simply kicked my assailant in the nuts and went back to work.
I’ll freely stipulate that the conduct Mr. Lawson refers to above is “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.” No Non Commissioned Officer should be playing grabass with junior enlisted. That’s what Specialists are for. And of course, there are always those who cross the line between horseplay and hazing. And that’s what a good NCO should be watching for, and maintaining that good order and discipline. Maybe having miscreants do pushups until the Sergeant gets tired is a better approach than convening a court martial?
And if Mr. Lawson was so truly traumatized by such an event, one wonders just how much worse the stress of actual combat would have been for him. Or, just perhaps, Mr. Lawson is finding an ex post facto claim for PTSD benefits. I don’t know.
There does seem to be an increase in genuine cases of sexual assault in the services. And that’s utterly unacceptable. But the histrionics coming from the usual suspects is counterproductive to actually addressing the issue.
*Roughly the equivalent of a grand jury in civilian law.
**As a practical matter, the Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty can only be imposed for murder, so the real maximum punishment is life imprisonment.