US military personnel have to sometimes worry more when they're among friends than in actual combat. In the past decades, hundreds of thousands of military personnel have been sexually assaulted in the US military.
A staggering one hundred thousand of those assaulted have been men.
The Latest Pentagon report on sexual military assault estimates that about 35,800 service members experienced some type of sexual assault in the previous year.
Commanders often ignore reports and punish the victims instead. The army is worried that these reports will slow the already low rate of recruitments even more.
Almost on a regular basis we have deplorable reports of sexual assault and rape occurring in the US military.
Why are so many of the victims afraid to come forward and how does the extent of sexual assaults effect army recruitment figures?
What are the authorities and the Pentagon officials doing to address this issue?
Apparently, the COVID 19 pandemic was not so bad for US servicemen and women. According to experts, due to widespread restrictions of movement and travel and the closure of many restaurants and bars in the past two years, reports of sexual assault had dropped.
With the easing of restrictions, however, a report by the Pentagon shows a 13% increase from the previous report.
During the pandemic isolation rules were in effect, travel was restricted and places where soldiers would normally gather outside barracks, such as bars and restaurants, were closed. As a result the chances of sexual assaults fell.
Sexual assault cases in the US military have increased.
The latest report by the Pentagon saw over 8800 cases of assault reported compared to over 7800 cases last year.
That is more than a 13% rise in assault cases.
Even before entering the military, those joining the military through the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, the JROTC program, have been subjected to sexual assault and rape by leaders of that very same program.
An investigative report by the New York Times revealed at least 33 instructors of the program were accused of sexual misconduct involving students; and many others have also been accused but never actually charged with any offence.
How prevalent is sexual assault in the US military?
Sexual assault is one of those things that go unreported, right, like it's a weird dynamic to have a wrongdoing happen to you and then be the person that has to bring that very intimate crime done to you up to leadership and bringing that up, right.
So that's a really weird thing that just doesn't get addressed in the way that things are in our society. Especially, when I don't think that the military has the goal of ensuring the well being of their soldiers (at heart).
Sofia Gentil, Activist
High school student victims reported sexual assaults in different settings. They had been assaulted in classrooms, supply closets, during field trips, or on late night rides home.
A student in Tennessee said her instructor threatened that if she told anyone about the sexual assaults that he had the skills to kill her without leaving a trace.
Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps known as JROTC is one of the largest character development and citizenship programs for youth in the United States.
JROTC Recruitment Drive
Disturbingly the JROTC program usually target schools with majority low income students.
Majority minority populated schools are three times more likely to have the program than majority white schools.
Therefore, the young victims subjected to sexual assault by veteran military instructors are most likely to be from low income minority families.
I'm sure that victims not only feel like they can't be taken seriously, but that they also won't receive support for it after the fact, and during, in fact, them speaking out shows that they are a liability for the interests of the military.
Sofia Gentil, Activist
One in four service women report being sexually assaulted in the US military. The New York Times magazine calls it "the epidemic of military sexual assault".
Most assaults go unreported, and of the ones that do get reported only a very small fraction results in a conviction.
For instance, in 2020 there were 6200 reports of offenses filed but only 50 resulted in a sex offense conviction.
The DOD reports about 25% of women are assaulted. So that's one in four. And yeah, reports of sexual assaults across the US military jumped 13% last year. You know, and it's mostly driven by increases in the Army and the Navy. But 36,000 service members, mostly women, said in a confidential survey that they experience unwanted sexual contact; 36,000!
Pat Elder, Author, World Beyond War
The family of a 20 year old Texas soldier Vanessa Guillén filed a lawsuit in mid August seeking $35 million in damages from the US government.
Guillén was murdered in her military base in 2020 by a fellow soldier with a hammer and he later dismembered and buried her remains.
An investigation by the military revealed she had been sexually harassed and command had failed to take action.
A decision came down this week opening the door for Vanessa Guillén family to sue. A court found that an old law preventing service members for seeking damages does not apply to sexual harassment and assault allegations.
Two years after Vanessa Guillén was murdered at Fort Hood, her sister, Mayra, is still fighting.
The victims of sexual assault in the military are not only women. In fact, according to Pentagon statistics, on average, about 10,000 men are sexually assaulted in the US military each year.
In the recent decade, more than 100,000 men have been sexually assaulted, most of them young and low ranking and the overwhelming majority have not reported the incidents.
Some might have a difficult time understanding American culture, it’s pretty disgusting. But half of the old army is from; the army is from the Old Confederacy. So half come from 13 states where there's just no opportunity. Okay? I mean the whole town is dried up. And so you turn 18 and you don't know what to do, because the jobs are just pathetic.
Army recruiting levels are down 25% and we've got to understand that we've got a hot job market right now. So, the army has always kind of scraped from the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, but more now than ever before.
So that may partly explain the culture that prevails, you know, so the you've got the lowest in society and now we find the army will steal, they'll lie, they'll forge, they'll hide, and they'll deal, for recruits. And they'll falsify health records and urine samples, and intelligence data and all of these things are falsified and so you're left with recruits that have no business [being] in the military.
Pat Elder, Author, World Beyond War
According to Deputy Director of the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, for generations the military wasn't looking for male sexual assault victims, so it failed to notice them.
Only in 2006, after the office began serving service members, did the military learn that at least as many men as women were being assaulted.
So yeah, like I said, like I don't think the military is organized in the way that's concerned with sexual assault and harassment in with the well being of their workers or their soldiers. Right.
So conducting drills and pushing your body to follow orders, you know, I imagine that it's a very alienating process that separates you from, you know, ownership of your body and whatever trauma or abuse comes from that is probably just considered part of the job.
Sofia Gentil, Activist
Billy Joe Capshaw was 17 when he joined the army and was stationed at the Baumholder Army Garrison in Germany in 1980, and was assigned to share a room with Jeffrey Dahmer, who was an Army medic, arrested in 1991 for being a serial rapist, a murderer and a cannibal.
During Capshaw's time in the military he was constantly beaten, drugged, and raped by Dahmer, but he never told anyone.
Shortly before midnight on July the 22nd 1991 two Milwaukee police officers were flagged down in their patrol car by a man with a pair of handcuffs dangling from one wrist. The police had no idea that this bizarre encounter would lead to the arrest of one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.
That night. people were afraid. People were whispering under their breaths. It is the devil. It is the devil.
The man had escaped from a small one bedroom apartment on North 25th Street, where the officers went to investigate, They found themselves in a living nightmare.
They saw the body parts and then one of the officers said that he heard a scream then he realized later he was the one who screamed when he saw the body.
Without detection, 31 year old Jeffrey Dahmer had killed 17 young men across a 13 year period.
According to the US Department of Defense, 24% of women and 6% of men in the military have been subjected to severe, persistent sexual harassment, of a small margin who tried to lodge an official complaint, the majority were told to drop the matter.
Many, who were persistent, have been dishonorably discharged, often citing evidence of behaviors that have occurred, ironically, as a result of trauma from the assaults, as justification for their dismissal.
According to "Protect Our Defenders", 81% of the women don't report the crime. And that's because they're afraid of retribution if they do; pretty common sense.
So 58% of the women who do report abuse face retaliation in the chain of command. So just figure it, you know, four out of five folks in the chain of command are men in the officers ranks.
So you know, captains want to become majors and majors want to become Lieutenant Colonel's and you don't need sexual abuse allegations in the chain of command.
It's better to just crush it. Tell the women to shut up.
Pat Elder, Author, World Beyond War
Many service members leave the military soon after experiencing sexual trauma and not voluntarily. Not only are military rapists rarely punished, but their victims are often punished for reporting what took place.
According to a 2018 survey of active duty service members by the Department of Defense, 38% of service women who reported their assaults experienced professional retaliation afterward.
Morgan Robinson knew from a young age she wanted to join the military
When she turned 21, she said mom, I gotta talk to you. And she told me then that she had joined.
She'd been in the Army National Guard six years when she was sent on her first deployment to Kuwait in 2016.
When she was in Kuwait, she was sexually assaulted and continually harassed by one of her superiors.
Despite having reported it to her superiors, no action was taken.
According to the New York Times, in group therapy a woman named Jessica told the group that she had jumped off a second floor balcony and shattered her pelvis to escape a navy sailor who was trying to kill her.
Another woman said that she was tied up, threatened with a razor blade and raped in Japan on a Navy deployment when she was 19; she reported it the next day but her assailant walked.
Army officials are alarmed by the recent pentagon report, indicating a 13 percent rise in sexual assaults in the military. The Army is expected to miss its targeted recruitment by ten thousand or by 18 – 25 percent by the end of September.
Army leaders are now saying that it is important for families and those who influence recruits to feel comfortable that their son or daughter is safe in the service.
One of the main reasons troops who are victims of sexual assault hardly ever see justice is the way in which such crimes are investigated and prosecuted. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military commanders decide whether to investigate and follow legal action.
Some politicians have been fighting, and failing, for years to change these military laws.
So how do pentagon and government officials deal with reports of sexual assault in the military?
The staggering number of instances of sexual violence, assault and harassment on both men and women in the US military, more than anything else, shows a lack of ethics and low moral fibre in the country’s most important force of imperialism.
Soldiers and officers who carry out these crimes, then cover them up, have shown no mercy toward their own fellow service members, thus, they can hardly be expected to behave with decorum and moral exactitude toward the innocent civilians in countries they invade, perform a military operation in, or are stationed at.