In 2009, Katie Couric released a provocative piece on the rise of sexual assault within the US military. Couric found that in 2006, there were more than 2,900 sexual assaults occurred within the US military; in those cases, less than ten percent of the accused faced prosecution. Despite a military review and investigation, the prevalence of rape and assault is spreading, and the measures taken thus far have been ineffective.
The lack-luster response to this crisis was the creation of a …
… two-tiered system of report. Women (and men) who have suffered sexual abuse can now seek medical aid or counseling without fear that their care providers will report the assault to their superior officers. This is a response to the most twisted part of the crisis: most of the assault victims are afraid, not of repercussions from their abusers, but of the repercussions they will receive from their commanding officers. They fear that their careers will suffer if they ask for justice. It seems that the problem is so deeply and systematically ingrained that the very military structure has – and continues to – protect the architects of these atrocities, while ostracizing and silencing the victims. Moreover, studies indicate that the problem is growing, even after the inquest and new measures.
But there is hope!
Women’s News reports that VETWOW – Veteran Women Organizing Women, a Seattle-based advocacy group, has rallied some 3,000 women who were raped during their time in the military. Together, these women are campaigning to raise awareness and challenge the systematic problem. After almost two-years, I’m glad that someone is giving a voice to the men and women who have already given so much to serve their country. There is no excuse or justification for rape – ever, but it seems even more reprehensible that there is so little sensitivity and respect for women who are already putting their lives in danger. Rape victims should not have to work and live alongside the unpunished men by whom they were violated.
Check out the VETWOW website to see how you can help raise awareness. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We need to ask more of our armed forces and more of our governments. We cannot let such central figures in our society sweep this under the rug.