During Senate hearings on the problem of sexual assault in the military, Army General Ray Odierno said that “Sexual assault and harassment are like a cancer within the force — a cancer that left untreated will destroy the fabric of our force.” And he’s got the supporting evidence to make the case; based on an anonymous survey of military personnel, at least 26,000 military personnel were assaulted last year.
However, this same General Odierno opposed New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand’s proposal to impose much the same types of controls over assault prosecutions that have been effectively used to combat military sexual assaults by such U.S. allies as Israel, Britain and Germany:
Gillibrand has proposed legislation that would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial. That judgment would rest with seasoned trial counsels who have prosecutorial experience and hold the rank of colonel or above.
The opposition to a more impartial process seems to stem from an attitude that boys will be boys and they just can’t control themselves around girls. And further, the military commanders who spoke, seemed to seriously resent the fact that they might loose some valuable soldiers because they are also rapists. Consider some comments from Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) who, while condemning sexual assault in the military, seemed to think it was an “understandable” result of proximity between the genders:
The young folks who are coming into each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23. Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur. So we’ve got to be very careful how we address it on our side …
Fortunately, Missouri’s own Senator Claire McCaskill, along with some of the other female Senators, were there to point out how outrageous such attitudes are:
The money quote:
This isn’t about sex. This is about assaultive domination and violence. And as long as those two get mushed together, you all are not going to be as successful as you need to be at getting after the most insidious part of this, which is the predators in your ranks that are sullying the great name of our American military.
We will not have successfully integrated women into the military until we have eradicated the institutional misogyny that sustains a rape culture. We need to make sure that the highest military brass are willing to enact enforce rules that insure that military women are treated with the same respect accorded to their male cohorts. And, maybe, thanks to some of the women now in the Senate, women like Kristen Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill, that culture change may be underway.
* Assaults against “military women” changed to “military personnel” and “military sexual assaults.”