Retaliatory Culture for Those Reporting Rape
The Department of Defense has finally quantified the retaliatory culture of the military. The DOD 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military found that 44 percent of active-duty women and 20 percent of active-duty men who had been victims of sexual assaults or rapes did not report them because "they thought their performance evaluation or chance for promotion would suffer." Even more decided not to report because they "thought they would be labeled a troublemaker."
Most rapists evade any form of punishment, much less incarceration. The DOD sexual assaults report said that fewer than 8 percent of suspected perpetrators were court-martialed and convicted, while in civilian life 40 percent of the accused were prosecuted. Most military personnel who have committed rape or sexual assault are allowed to be honorably discharged; if they're forced to retire, they still receive their full benefits.
The DOD does not maintain a military sex offender registry that can alert service members, unit commanders, communities and civilian law enforcement to the presence and movement of sexual predators. Military sex offenders are not placed in the national sex offenders' database created by the Department of Justice.
The Navy and Marine Corps give a substantial number of waivers to potential recruits who have criminal records, including felony convictions. A 2007 study found that in 2006 the Marines gave 20,750 recruits (54.3 percent of all those recruited that year) waivers for criminal convictions. In 2005, 20,426 recruits (53.5 percent) were given them.
In 2006, the Navy gave 3,502 recruits, or 9.7 percent of those recruited, waivers for criminal conduct. In 2005, it gave them to 3,467 recruits, or 9.2 percent.
According to a 2009 study, 13 percent of men enlisting in the Navy admitted that they had raped someone. Of those men, 71 percent admitted to serial rapes. The perpetrators said that they targeted people they knew rather than strangers and generally used drugs or alcohol rather than brute force to incapacitate their victims.
What Can Be Done to Stop Rape and Boost Prosecutions?
Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain and company commander and now executive director of the Service Women's Action Network, says that the Pentagon's primary solution for ending rape is through its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), which has no law enforcement authority to prosecute or punish. She says SAPRO's messaging to military troops is questionable, including its infamous poster that says "Ask Her When She's Sober."
Bhagwati strongly believes that the military should have all sexual assault cases handled at the General Court Martial Convening Authority level, where a general officer -- with more experience, maturity and impartiality than a junior commander in whose unit the alleged crime occurred -- would decide whether they should be prosecuted.
Another option is offered in the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (the STOP Act), introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier on Nov. 16, 2011. H.R. 3435 would take the reporting, oversight, investigation and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military's normal chain of command and place jurisdiction for them in the newly created, autonomous Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office, composed of civilian and military experts.
Speier has been talking about the issue of rape in the military each week for four months on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Because of the reluctance of the military to prosecute sexual predators, Bhagwati also calls for reform to allow service members access to the federal courts for civil redress of these crimes. Currently, service members cannot bring a tort claim in federal court for rape, sexual assault and harassment cases and other crimes and acts of negligence by the military, including medical malpractice and workplace discrimination.
There is a pattern of the military using psychiatric diagnoses to get women who report sexual assaults out of the military.
According to a Freedom of Information Act request, from 2001 to 2010 the military discharged more than 31,000 service members, citing a personality disorder -- "a long-standing, inflexible pattern of maladaptive behavior and coping, beginning in adolescence or early adulthood." The military considers a personality disorder diagnosis as a non-service-related, pre-existing condition. Veterans Affairs will not provide treatment for a pre-existing condition, and the service members are left without treatment for their sexual assault trauma. Additionally, service members who are diagnosed with a personality disorder and are discharged lose GI Bill educational benefits and have to repay re-enlistment bonuses.
Military records obtained by Yale Law School's Veterans Legal Services Clinic through a separate Freedom of Information Act request show that the personality diagnosis is used disproportionately on women. In the Army, 16 percent of all soldiers are women, but they constitute 24 percent of all personality disorder discharges. Women make up 21 percent of the Air Force but account for 35 percent of personality discharges. In the Navy, women account for 17 percent of the total members but 26 percent of personality discharges, while the 7 percent of the Marine Corps who are female account for 14 percent of the personality discharges. The records do not state how many women were ordered discharged from the military with a personality disorder diagnosis.