by Brittany Bamesberger
Attention all women: have you ever thought about joining the armed forces to fight alongside your male counterparts and defend this great country?! Well, I certainly have, and then the thought of rape it hit me like a sack of potatoes after doing a little research. According to Anne G. Sadler and Michelle A. Mengeling, clinical psychologists, “Violence exposure is widespread in the military population, with estimates that 25%-49% are sexually assaulted during childhood and 23%-30% during military service” (1). You heard me correctly ladies, you have up to a 30% chance of being sexually assaulted in the United States military today.
I am a broke college student studying aviation professional flight to become a pilot. In case you don’t know, aviation is one of the most expensive programs out there. At the end of my college career I will be over ($80 thousand) in debt and ($33 thousand) of that just in pilot certificates alone. Why am I telling you this embarrassing amount of debt I am getting myself into? It all goes back to joining the armed forces. If I were to join the military such as the Navy or Air Force I could have all of my schooling paid for including some nice GI Bills after I retired from the force. However, I personally don’t believe that a free education is worth the substantially high risk of being sexually assaulted and having little to no legal representation available to protect me. That is why the United States Government should amend Title 10 of the United States Code.
To begin, Title 10 of the United States code was enacted on August 10, 1956. Title 10 provides legal basis for the roles, missions and organization of each of the services as well as the United States Department of Defense. Five separate Subtitles deals with a separate aspect or component of the armed services. Subtitle A- General Military Law including Uniform Code of Military Justice, Subtitle B- Army, Subtitle C- Navy and Marine Corps, Subtitle D- Air Force and finally Subtitle E represents the Reserve Components. Each Subtitle explains in detail the legal provisions used to solve everyday issues that the armed forces encounters.
Next, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military, for some, presents new and surprising information. However, sexual violence in war has been present for hundreds of years. Elisabeth Wood provides significant information on the history of sexual violence in war. According to Wood, “In some conflicts, sexual violence takes the form of sexual slavery, whereby women are abducted to serve as servants and sexual partners of combatants for extended periods; in others, it takes the form of torture in detention” (308). Although very little data is available to provide accurate percentages about the history of sexual violence in war, it is present without a doubt.
Furthermore, many Americans join the military because prior generations of their family served; others join because they want to serve their country and better their lives. However, some join to escape violent homes in which they wouldn’t have the opportunity to escape without the help of the military. The military provides service, discipline and a new “family” to these people that are escaping broken homes. Unknowingly, these people join the armed forces to find dark and unjustifiable secrets hidden within. These victims of violent homes join the armed forces in search of a better life only to find themselves in an equally or more unsafe environment than before. According to Margret E. Bell and Annemarie Reardon, pathologists, “As perpetrators are frequently other military personnel, this often creates a situation where the victim must continue to live and work with his or her assailant” (40). Bell and Reardon illustrate how “work life” and “home life” while deployed become one of the same. For the victims there is no escape from their assailant.
The mental and physical damage from sexual assault is life altering. Women and men sexually assaulted can have lifetime negative effects. MSA or military sexual assault and CSA civilian sexual assault have two very different outcomes. Alina Suris and Lisa Lind present a study of women, civilian and veterans, and the results of sexual assault. Civilian sexual assault reported a lesser quality of life compared to no history of sexual assault, naturally. Interestingly enough, Suris and Lind report, “…women veterans with an MSA history demonstrated additional negative consequences above and beyond the effects of CSA” (179). These additional negative consequences include two times the risk of developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in addition to other psychological trauma, physical trauma and readjustment problems after the soldier returns home from deployment. How can we as Americans allow this physical and mental abuse occur and occur so frequently without providing assistance? Michael Urbina, a frequent human rights blogger, posted a contributor’s idea on rape:
Women in one way or another live their lives on a rape schedule. Every action women take is built on an awareness that you could be attacked. From walking with your keys in hand to a woman’s inability to walk alone in the dark without deep anxieties, from the things women wear or don’t wear to the time of day women go certain places, these are ways in which women’s daily lives are altered. It is a privilege to live without a rape schedule, a privilege women do not hold. (Urbina)
Victims that are strong enough to present their case are encouraged to go to their leaders. However, in a multitude of cases the assailant is indeed their leader. This leaves the victims with nowhere to go and no one to help them, utterly stranded. The truth is a majority of sexual assaults are never reported. The United States needs to bring forth the effort of providing sustainable legal representation for these victims and bringing the rapists to justice. The legal representation must have knowledge of the armed forces and its law, however, be separate from the military system to provide unbiased assistance.
The U.S. military needs to remove the power of military commanders to dismiss such cases by providing soldiers the availability of an outside source at all times. This outside source needs to be available even while soldiers are deployed overseas. Finally, screening of civilians to enter the military needs to be more precise and less accepting of everyone that applies. The military needs to take into consideration the applicant’s past and their motive for joining the armed forces.
Additionally, the close relation between childhood sexual assault and sexual assault in the military is not just a coincidence. According to Walter E. Penk and Bret A. Moore, “Comprehensive review of the extant literature found repeated association between pre-enlistment exposure to violence (including childhood sexual or physical abuse) and sexual assault in the military” (257). Thus, this situation is “setting the military up for sexual assault disaster”. An unspoken balance of sexual aggressors and victims does indeed exist in the military. By eliminating or at least limiting the number of sexual aggressors in our armed forces will greatly reduce the percentage of sexual assault within U.S. military. Indeed, this will call for more time and effort by military recruiters to screen each individual that applies, however, in the long run this simple step could immensely change the United States Military for the better. Bringing our troops closer together and allowing them to actually build trust in one another and trust the person next to them while in combat scenarios will benefit every party involved. Thus, the United States will have a stronger and more bonded armed forces than ever. In the end, we are all fighting for something, however, fighting for your life in combat shouldn’t be fighting a person wearing the same uniform as you.
Bell, Margret E., and Annemarie Reardon. “Social Work in Health Care”. 1st Edition. 50. London, UK: Routledge, 2011. 34-44.Web. 23 Sept. 2013.
Penk, Walter E., and Bret A. Moore. “Treating PTSD in Military Personnel: A Clinical Handbook.” New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2011. eBook Library. Web. 29 Sept 2013.
Sadler, Anne G., Michelle A. Mengeling, et al. “Lifetime Sexual Assault and Cervical Cytologic Abnormalities Among Military Women.” 20.11 (2011): 1-10. Web. 30 Sep. 2013.
Suris, Alina, Lisa Lind, et al. “Mental Health, Quality of Life, and Health Functioning in Women Veterans.” Differential Outcomes Associated with Military and Civilian Sexual Assault. 22.2 (2007): 179-197. Web. 30 Sep. 2013.
Urbina, Michael. “In Feminism Violence Against Women.” N.p., 05 Jun 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. <http://michaelurbina.com/dear-men-everywhere/>.
Wood, Elisabeth. “Variation in Sexual Violence during War.” Politics & Society. 34.3 (2006): 307-342. Web. 30 Sep. 2013.