Skip to main content

 photo 971524_590449844305981_623510479_n_zps5fdc8293.jpg

Although many different organizations have pulled together to advertise the persistent and never ending problem of rape in the military, it is fair to say that the architects behind The Invisible War, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, have placed Military Sexual Assault front and center.

Their film highlights the stories of several victims of sexual assault. The victims are mainly women - by percentages, women are more likely to be attacked though men are definitely targeted as well. The stories are heartbreaking and hard to listen to. You will hear from many of the victim's family members as well. The brave folks that speak out on the screen deserve to be listened to. Their willingness to take a stand has made it much easier for other victims to stand up, speak out, and seek justice.

The numbers of reported sexual assaults in the military are increasing - I for one believe this isn't because more assaults are happening but because more are being reported. Victims believe the system is finally paying attention in a way that is very different than pre-Invisible War.

First, senior brass and commanders in the field are finally owning up to the fact that all sexual assaults need to be taken seriously. In fact, the Commander in Chief himself spoke out about the issue this week:

And for those who are in uniform who have experienced sexual assault, I want them to hear directly from their Commander-In-Chief that I've got their backs. I will support them. And we're not going to tolerate this stuff and there will be accountability. If people have engaged in this behavior, they should be prosecuted.

And anybody in the military who has knowledge of this stuff should understand this is not who we are. This is not what the U.S. military is about. And it dishonors the vast majority of men and women in uniform who carry out their responsibilities and obligations with honor and dignity and incredible courage every single day.

So bottom line is I have no tolerance for this. I have communicated this to the Secretary of Defense. We're going to communicate this again to folks up and down the chain in areas of authority, and I expect consequences.

So I don't want just more speeches or awareness programs or training but, ultimately, folks look the other way. If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they've got to be held accountable -- prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It's not acceptable.

In the past, and as The Invisible War shows, the system allowed commanders to pretend that rape cases weren't really rape. They were more likely to be "misunderstandings" - he said, she said stories that could be called date rape if you will. Or, they were more likely to be 'victims' trying to get back at leadership. Yes, we don't often see someone of lower rank being accused of raping someone of higher rank. The Invisible War has called attention to the victim blaming that was going on at the highest levels, whether it was of the date rape variety or the vengeful victim variety.

Second, leadership at the most senior levels has been called to task by our elected officials. Senator Claire McCaskill has been especially outspoken and sponsored legislation to change the way in which sexual assault cases are handled in the military. There is a strong movement to remove the decision making from military command to a civilian authority. Of course, commanders don't want to see this happen so they feel forced to show that they can truly manage these cases without prejudice.

Third, the media is paying attention. The least hint of impropriety and the cameras come out. The military makes a mistake, like sending a convicted rapist with an overturned conviction to a military base where the victim's family lives, and the press covers the story. The story resonates with the public and more questions are asked and more people call their members of Congress to find out what in the hell is going on. If this continues to happen, the press will continue to pay attention. If we care, they will care.

We're still a long way from zero tolerance being the real deal. This week, front pager Laura Clawson wrote the failures of top generals, including General Mark Welsh. The general came into his new position as Chief of Staff of the Air Force saying all the right things about preventing sexual assault. Then last week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he had this to say:

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, appeared to blame broader society, noting that 20% of women report they had been sexually assaulted "before they came into the military."

"So they come in from a society where this occurs," he said. "Some of it is the hookup mentality of junior high even and high school students now, which my children can tell you about from watching their friends and being frustrated by it."

Sexual freedom and sexual assault are two very different things and until our senior leaders understand that concept, maybe they aren't well prepared to win the war against rape in our military.

You can help. If you haven't seen The Invisible War, watch it tomorrow for free via [i]DEPENDENT LENS. If you're a member of Netflix, it's available on instant streaming right now. Watching the film gives you greater credibility when you recommend that others watch the film. Because that's what will happen - like me, I bet you become incensed and you'll share your anger and the film via Facebook, Twitter, and email. You'll be willing to ask family and friends to take the time to do a difficult thing - watch the film and help stop rape in the US. Let's be honest. This really isn't just about rape in the military - it's about rape in our society. The military is just a microcosm where rapists feel more comfortable to plant themselves and to lie in wait for their next victim.

Originally posted to A Progressive Military Wife on Sun May 12, 2013 at 03:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Military Veterans, Military Community Members of Daily Kos, and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site