Since this is sexual assault awareness month it seems fitting to highlight where we are with the sexual assault crisis in our military and on our college campuses. The U.S. Military is doing their best to create programs and train soldiers and commanders to deal with this issue so that it will go away. More than anything they want this to go away and not be in the public eye so that we all continue to revere service men as heroes of high integrity. To be fair and honest, most of them are that and more. But what of those who are sexual predators and serial rapists appearing as the impeccable perfect soldier in every way?
Those sexual predators, who are responsible for about 95% of the military sexual assaults, are undetectable and unrecognizable unless you are looking for them, and no one is. Our military has a cultural problem and they have yet to admit to that or come close to addressing it in anyway. The cultural problem has been there for decades and as unrecognized as the sexual predators who foster it.
When it is the expected norm that women service members, especially the enlisted variety, are fair game to be sexually harassed by any male service member and most men go along with it, the roots go deep. When women service members have nowhere to go with their complaints where they will be taken seriously, it is a cultural problem. When an enlisted woman finds the courage to report an actual sexual assault and she is reporting it to her rapist or to an officer who believes the rapist to be one of their best soldiers, the report is not going anywhere and the woman service member is at risk for retaliation. That too is a cultural problem. When many men and sexual predators believe they are entitled to take what they want from women in the military with complete disregard for the woman's rights and get away with it repeatedly--there is a cultural problem.
In 2012 there were 26,000 sexual assaults a year in our military and for 2014 there were between 20,000 and 30,000. Reported assaults were almost 6,000 for 2014 and that reflects only 20% of the actual assaults. How are they doing in reducing the numbers?
Senator Kristen Gillibrand of NY introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) to take the reporting of these cases out of the hands of the chain of command. Her MJIA was filibustered in the Senate and did not pass because the military lobbied the senators to keep their authority intact. It is as inappropriate for military leaders to be responsible for sexual assault investigations and prosecutions as it would be for an attorney to be responsible for the tactical movement of troops and their deployment. I urge the Senate to pass the MJIA. Our military shows us they cannot solve the problem: they are not holding offenders accountable, they are not punishing criminal behavior, and they continue to deny they have a cultural problem.
On our college campuses one in five women are sexually assaulted and primarily by repeat offenders who are unrecognizable and undetected. College and university administrators are in denial about the culture of abuse that exists on their campus. Men attending those institutions are primarily young and virile and not problematic but what of the young men who have already raped and who are, like predators in our military in a target rich environment looking for their next victim?
David Lisak asserts that, "Every report should be viewed and treated as an opportunity to identify a serial rapist. They're not a large group, but their behavior is really consistent with everything we know about sex offenders." He believes these offenders are relentless and average six rapes each. "They've perfected ways of identifying who on campus, for example, are most vulnerable." In a 2011 article, Lisak wrote, "You have to investigate the assault and who the individual is. Everything hinges on the investigation." He also noted how ill-equipped universities are to conduct such investigations. [http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/12/college_rape_campus_sexual_assault_is_a_serious_problem_but_the_efforts.html]
Just as women in our military deserve to be heard and treated with dignity and respect when they come forward to report a sexual assault, so too must our college and university women be similarly treated. Once it becomes clear that the report is legitimate and valid then they deserve a fair and thorough investigation that follows specific forensic structure to preserve the evidence so that a fair and just outcome is more likely.