Friday, April 12, 2013

Six New Mottos For (Women) in the U.S. Military

Act #102:  Get angry, very angry, about rape culture in the military.

This we'll defend. (Army)
Always Faithful. (Marine Corps)
Aim High.  Fly.  Fight.  Win. (Air Force)
Not self but country. (Navy)

1. Defeat, and be defeated.
Military sexual trauma, which includes everything from sexual harassment to rape, is the leading cause of post-traumatic stress disorder among women in the U.S. military.

2.  Trust.  But not your own.
Female soldiers today are 180 times more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed by an enemy.

3.  Silence.  Survival.
In 2011 while there were only 3,000 reported cases of military sexual assault, a report commissioned by then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put the actual annual number at 19,000 or more.  An anonymous survey of more than 1,100 women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, conducted last year by the Department of Veterans Affairs, found that almost half said they had been sexually harassed, and nearly one quarter said they'd been sexually assaulted.

4.  Outranked, outnumbered. 
First responders frequently fail to collect forensic evidence of an assault within the 72-hour deadline stipulated by current guidelines, and more often than not, the victim's superior decides against proceeding to court-martial.  92 percent of reported assaults never come before a military court.

5.  Judgement.  Never fair.  Never self.
Last year, two thirds of all reported cases were either summarily dismissed as unfounded, or resolved by the perpetrators simply being given extra duties or having their pay docked.

6.  Consent, always in question.
Of the few defendants referred to court-martial, a tenth opt to resign instead.  By admitting guilt and accepting punishment of leaving the military, they can avoid civilian and military prosecution.  Before a case goes to trial, a military judge can issue a summary verdict of "consensual sex" that ends the proceedings.

Case in point.
Just months after arriving at Aviano Air Base in Italy, a female civilian physician's assistant was socializing with friends and wound up at an impromptu part at the home of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson and his wife, neither of whom she had known. Because of the late hour, she accepted an invitation to spend the night in the couple’s guest bedroom and went to sleep. Later in the night she found Wilkerson on top of her with his hands on her breasts, down her pants, and inserted inside of her. His wife walked in and kicked her out, but later testified that she asked the victim to leave because she was talking too loudly on her cell phone.  A jury of four colonels and a lieutenant colonel convicted Wilkerson on charges of abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. Wilkerson was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service.  This week Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin overturned the jury's guilty verdict. Franklin never attended the trial, but spent three weeks reviewing tapes, testimony and letters submitted in support of Wilkerson.  Even though Wilkerson refused to testify and failed a polygraph, Franklin felt that he had a "genuine and reasonable doubt" that Wilkerson committed the sexual assault.  The Air Force’s chief prosecutor who tried the case, described the victim as one of the most credible witnesses he's ever dealt with. 

Franklin's reasons for overturning the case?
  • The victim turned down offers to be driven home from the party.
  • The victim didn't accurately describe the house layout and gave a version of events that he did not find credible.
  • Wilkerson was a doting father with a good career and it would be "incongruent" for him to leave his wife in bed, go downstairs and assault a sleeping woman he'd only met earlier that evening.
  • Wilkerson's wife's account of the events differed in some details from her husband's, suggesting that the two didn't collude on a manufactured story.
  • Wilkerson was at least willing to submit to the lie-detector test.
The Air Force quietly reassigned Wilkerson as a safety chief at an Arizona base. The victim continues on with her life being blamed, having asked for it, and as a liar. 


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