World

The US military tolerates sexual harassment

More than 100,000 men have been sexually assaulted in the US military in recent decades. The US military, apparently, tolerates sexual harassment, the number of women in the military assaulted, is also staggering. Commanders often ignore reports and punish the victims instead.

A video posted by a female marine about sexual assault in the military rocketed across the internet, and into the Pentagon press briefing room today, Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, promised to take additional steps to stop such violence, but as Nick Schifrin reports, sexual assault in the military continues to rise and individual families continue to be ripped apart.

PBS TV

Sexual assault in the military has long been swept under the rug covered up for rationalized acts of hazing or bullying but now we’re learning more about the men who were victimized during their time serving the country. And again, statistics show an average of 10,000 men each year are sexually assaulted in the US military most of the victims are usually younger, lower ranking males who struggle to report the incidence.

CBS TV

Nearly one in four US service women report being sexually assaulted in the military. The New York Times magazine calls it the epidemic of military sexual assault.

Most assaults go unreported, and of the ones that do get reported, only a very small fraction ends in a conviction.

For instance, in 2020, there were 6200 reports of offences made, but only 50, which is less than 1% ended with a sex offence conviction.

According to the US Department of Defence, 24% of women and 6% of men in the military have endured severe, persistent, sexual harassment.

Of the small margin who actually tried to complain, the majority were told to drop the matter.

The victims are punished

Well the US military has in a way been in a slow train wreck, deconstruction, demolition, for the past 50 years, ever since the Vietnam War. The American military, essentially, before the Vietnam War was all men, after the Vietnam War, the military academies and the military services, began to increasingly bring women in to roles that were not simply nursing or clerical, but actual physical involvement with duties that were very close to men in the situations and scenarios. So as a result of the American military opening up a lot of its previously closed doors to women, You’ve had an increase steadily in the incidents of sexual harassment, sexual molestation, rape, also physical violence and things like that.

Scott Bennet, Former US Psychological Warfare Officer

From 2009 to 2015 more than 22% of service members who left the military after reporting a sexual assault, received a less than fully honorable discharge, according to a 2016 investigation by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General.

That is nearly one and a half times more than the percentage of overall service members who received less than fully honorable discharges from 2002 through 2013.

Dr Rick Staggenborg is a retired Veterans Affairs psychiatrist, who is now a social and political commentator and an activist for peace and universal health care in the US.

What is the culture of the military which results in these assaults?

They are going to have to get serious about prosecuting the offenders before the other ones will think twice. because of the hierarchical nature of the military It’s very easy to fall into that, even, even people that might not otherwise, certainly not in civilian life would not be assaulting their subordinates, seem to think they can get away with it violence, as well, is considered normal in the military. With the Marines, part of the training is to get beaten and beat others. I understand that’s changed some since I was in the military but I doubt it has changed a lot. So it’s a culture it’s going to be hard to change.

Dr Rick Staggenborg, Veterans’ Affairs Psychiatrist

Many service members leave the military soon after experiencing sexual trauma and not voluntarily. Not only are military rapists rarely punished, but their victims are often punished for reporting what happened. According to a 2018 survey of active duty service members by the Department of Defence, 38% of service women who reported their assaults experienced professional retaliation afterward.

Morgan Robinson knew from a young age she wanted to join the military.

CBS spoke with her mother.

When she turned 21 she said, Mom, I got to talk to you, and she told me then that she had joined.

She’d been in the Army National Guard for six years when she was sent on her first deployment to Kuwait in 2016.

What happened to Morgan, while she was serving abroad?

When she was in Kuwait, she was sexually assaulted and continually harassed by one of her superiors.

Did she report it?

Yes, she reported it.

What was the response when she reported it?

Nothing. She got nothing.

While on that same deployment, Morgan was sent to Afghanistan where she was sexually assaulted, again, an alleged gang rape involving multiple fellow soldiers.

According to Deputy Director of the Defence department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, for generations the military wasn’t looking for male sexual assault victims, so it failed to see them.

Only in 2006, after the office began serving service members, did the military learn that at least as many men as women were being assaulted.

The military, have joined the military to purposefully and intentionally bring in homosexuality into the military, this was done under Obama, and also under Bill Clinton, so there has been, since the 1990s, a steady increase in homosexual members of the military, and that has created an environment where certain, certain young men are groomed or, or, or, in some cases, lured into compromising positions by senior officers that may have more of a homosexual inclination. So you have a lot of those incidents.

Scott Bennet, Former US Psychological Warfare Officer

A report published in May indicates that while the share of male victims who come forward has been rising recently, an estimated four out of five still do not report the attack. Why are so many men assaulted in the military?

Well, that’s primarily because rape and sexual violence, are crimes of aggression, not passion, That’s a common mistake. So people are, how shall I say, well, people can become more callous after they’ve undergone military training, especially if they’ve been in combat.

Dr Rick Staggenborg, Retired Psychiatrist

Billy Joe Capshaw was 17 years old when he joined the army and was stationed at Baumholder Army Garrison in Germany in 1980 where he was assigned to share a room with Jeffrey Dahmer, who was an Army medic and later came to be arrested, in 1991, for being a serial rapist and killer.

Jeffrey Dahmer had raped and killed 17 young men and boys, dismembered and ate them. And during Capshaw’s time in the military, he was constantly beaten, drugged and raped by Dahmer, but never told anyone.

Shortly before midnight on July the 22nd 1991 two Milwaukee police officers were flagged down in their patrol car by a man with a pair of handcuffs dangling from one wrist. The police had no idea that this bizarre encounter would lead to the arrest of one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.

Sky TV

That night, people were afraid. People were whispering under their breaths, it is the devil, the devil.

Milwakee Resident

The man had escaped from a small one bedroom apartment on North 25th Street, where the officers went to investigate the found themselves in a living nightmare.

Sky TV

He saw the body parts and then one of the officers said he heard a scream then realise later, he was the one who screamed when he saw the body.

Pathologist

Without detection 31 year old Jeffrey Dahmer had killed 17 young men across a 13 year period.

Sky TV

One of the main reasons troops who are victims of sexual assault hardly ever see justice is the way in which such crimes are investigated and prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; the military commanders decide whether to investigate and follow it up for legal action.

Some politicians have been fighting and failing for years to change these military laws.

Well, according to the report that came out in July, there has not been any improvement. I haven’t seen specific statistics, But when I was working for the VA, It was pretty, pretty horrible, I saw, most of the women I saw had been sexually traumatized one way or the other. And it’s my impression that it’s the same thing that they are working on.

Dr Rick Staggenborg, Retired Psychiatrist

Every year since 2013 Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has introduced legislation to move the decision to prosecute major military crimes, including sex crimes, out of the hands of military commanders and into those of independent prosecutors, and every year it has failed to move forward.

Commanders, up until now, have been very reluctant to investigate these, in many cases, if not most, and even when they do, they frequently punish the person who speaks, which inhibits other people from speaking out.

Dr Rick Staggenborg, Retired Psychiatrist

Historically, the Pentagon has vehemently opposed the idea, saying that it would undermine institutional leadership.

During a 2019 Senate hearing, Vice Admiral John G Hannink, Judge Advocate General of the Navy, testified that removing authority over serious crimes from commanders would have a detrimental impact on the ability of those commanders, and other commanders, to ensure good order and discipline.

Our navy regulations emphasize the great responsibility of the commanding officer for his or her command and states that the authority of the commanding officer is commensurate with his or her responsibility. In my view, it must remain so. And this authority should not be eroded.

Vice Admiral, John G Hannink, Judge Advocate General, US Navy

Sexual assault is often the initial signal event, a long line of painful trauma, which culminates in post traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide.

In a 2019 study, scientists surveyed more than 300 service women and female veterans who had experienced sexual assault and found 29% were currently contemplating suicide.

From 2007 to 2017, the age adjusted suicide rate among women veterans rose by 73%, in 2019 Women accounted for 31% of all suicide attempts among active duty service members.

I saw one soldier traumatized to the point that they had post traumatic stress disorder. And again, I saw only a tiny proportion of women that had been affected by that. Most of them just try to bury it and they never even report it.

If they do start suffering symptoms they don’t want to go to the VA, because it’s sort of a military style way of delivering services. It’s kind of militarized in the way they run it. They’re constantly praising, military and heroes, and these women were victimized by some of those people that are called Heroes.

These women were victimized by people who are supposed to have their back. And when you think about it for a moment you can see obviously when you’re traumatized by the very people that are supposed to be trying to protect you as you are protecting them. It’s doubling that.

Dr Rick Staggenborg, Retired Psychiatrist

Since military sexual assault triggers multiple traumas, victims repeatedly experience feelings of betrayal, isolation, and worthlessness.

Surveys show that the environment in which women are assaulted in the military are atmospheres where women often feel that they don’t belong, and they are usually assaulted by the men they work with, and at times, they are their immediate superiors.

So they have to constantly see them and work with them feeling that they might be assaulted again.

Many of the military who experienced sexual harassment or being preyed upon or gang raped or in any way drugged, that’s one of the very, very big dangers and problems is the drugging of women that causes them to become incapacitated, and thereby make them victims of sexual predators. Most of these women that experienced this are very much ashamed and just want to forget it, and don’t want to draw attention, they don’t want to draw any sort of investigation that could mar or blacken their character.

Scott Bennet, Former US Psychological Warfare Officer

Many of the victims of sexual assault leave the military involuntarily. It’s not just the fact that the rapist often goes unpunished but that the victim actually receives a punishment for reporting the offence.

According to a 2018 survey by the Department of Defence, 30% of service women who reported assaults in the military, received professional retaliation.

In December 2019 she arrived at Fort Bliss in Texas, an 18 year old soldier.

She was a very, very proud soldier; her basic trainings First Sergeant loved her and praised her.

Mother of Female Marine

But she left the military draped in a flag. She’d been found dead on New Year’s Eve 2020 in her barracks at age 19

She got raped by a fellow soldier in December, she reported it In February, she was told to shut up. And the rapist was in her barracks in her company. And she had to see him every day.

Mother of Female Marine,

She moved in with her brother off base to get away from her alleged attacker, the siblings had always been close. Anthony saw his sister’s descent. She started drinking and taking pills and became self destructive. She got a DUI. She died of an overdose.

Many of the victims who decided to leave the military have not received a full honorable discharge. This is called a bad paper discharge which can cut veterans off from jobs and VA services, as well as education benefits.

The 2020 veterans’ legal clinic report found that the VA has denied services to as many as 400,000 potentially eligible veterans.

So the military really isn’t equipped, nor does it have the imperative to educate and morally train soldiers in relationship dimensions, that is one of the key areas that the American military family is left up to its own devices. anything regarding morality, anything regarding sexual relationships or dating or any of these activities or just human relationships in general, the military does not engage that, the military is specifically inclined to training soldiers to perform specific tasks that fall within the military strategy of fighting wars, defeating enemies, and those are very limited training modules.

Scott Bennet, Former US Psychological Warfare Officer

According to The New York Times, in group therapy, a woman named Jessica told the group that she had jumped off a second floor balcony and shattered her pelvis to escape a navy soldier who was trying to kill her.

Another woman said that she was tied up threatened with a razor blade and raped in Japan on a navy deployment, when she was 19 she reported it the next day but her assailant walked.

So it’s a very complicated phenomenon, the nature of sexual relationships in the US military, and it’s a very sordid and ugly problem in many, many regards, but it has been predictable because when the American military started opening up the doors and allowing and encouraging, men and women, to, to be working in close quarters, in close situations, doing many of the same jobs. It was only inviting these, these problemed [sic] relationships and scenarios, and it has also depleted the American’s combat effectiveness, and like I said, transformed the American military from a lethal war machine into now a social experiment.

Scott Bennet, Former US Psychological Warfare Officer

A military wide survey released in 2019 reveals that alcohol use is a major contributing factor in sexual assault, and was involved in over 62% of these incidents against women.

Assaults have increased across all branches of the military, but the Marine Corps, which has more young, low ranking troops and far fewer women than other services, reported by far the highest rates of assaults, 10% of women surveyed in the Marines reported having been assaulted, which is twice the rate of either the army or the Air Force.

The results obtained by USA Today estimated 20,500 incidents of unwanted sexual contact, involving personnel from the four armed forces branches in 2018. The study defined the range for assault as groping to rape.

According to USA Today, the study showed that 85% of sexual assault victims knew their assailant and in 62% of the cases, alcohol was involved.

The survey indicated that the rate of assaults on men in the military was far less than on women; about 1% of men surveyed said they had been assaulted in the previous year, with the highest incidents reported in the Navy.

Even though according to the survey, troops were experiencing more assaults, they were less likely than before to report them.

You know a lot of people were thrown out of the military and had their entire identity taken away so whatever trauma they were going through just from, from being assaulted, was compounded because they were fired, they were sent home often under a cloud of shame. This oftentimes happened, you know, when people were 19-20 years old, right, when they’re trying to form their identity, and that really sent them sprawling so the men I spoke to who were assaulted in the 1960s and 70s they spent decades trying to hide this even oftentimes from themselves, and the damage to their lives was tremendous.

CBS TV

The Staggering number of cases of sexual violence, assault and harassment on both men and women in the US military, More than anything, shows the lack of ethics, and moral character in the country’s most important force of imperialism.

The United States military in many of its bases around the world such as Okinawa, the Philippines, Germany, the US military has also had many of its members engaged in the, in the rape, molestation, unwanted attention of the local female population from Korea and Japan, Germany, there are many many incidents of US military members going off of base and going to bars or other places, and engaging in very immoral activities and also in outright criminal activities. So, this has been a source of animosity and friction among many of the countries in which the US has positioned itself and had bases, the Japanese in Okinawa have reacted with a great deal of hostility and political protest.

Scott Bennet, Former US Psychological Warfare Officer

These actions also show the weakness that lurks among soldiers, officers and superior officers who are either perpetrators, or involved in the cover up of such heinous crimes against the weak.

Crimes that are also inflicted upon communities and countries where the US military is stationed, for one reason or another, and is often harshly criticized by the governments and people who are hosting them.

Soldiers who have no mercy on their fellow comrades will obviously have no mercy on ordinary foreign citizens either.

 

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