The numbers surrounding military sexual assault have been disturbing for decades, but the fact that there has been no improvement may be what serves as most troubling with an increase of 37 percent in sexual assault in the past year. The Pentagon recently reported that approximately 26,000 people serving in the military were victims of “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012 alone; however, as few as 3,374 of those assaults are actually reported to authorities. In the latest trial making headlines and the largest military case of sexual assault since Obama’s been in office, defense attorney Ronald “Chip” Herrington who represents one of the accused assailants has claimed that the victim is faking her emotional exhaustion and turmoil displayed in her testimony.
The 21 year-old midshipman victim, who remains unnamed, has accused Naval Academy football players Tra’ves Bush, Eric Graham and Joshua Tate of raping her in April 2012 after she passed out from drinking too much alcohol during a party. This week, she has endured more than 20 hours of questioning so far surrounding her entire character, medical background, and even the type of underwear she wears.
In her testimony, the alleged victim explained that she recalls “waking up with back pain” and variety of brief memories from the evening. “I noticed I was really disheveled. I was really nerve-wracked because I didn’t know what had happened.” She then spoke with Tate, one of the alleged rapists, who informed that she had had sex with both him and his teammate Graham. The alleged victim explained his response to her lack of memory as, “He was like, ‘What? You don’t remember?’ He told me that we had sex and he was going to have to refresh my memory.”
“He was laughing,” she explained, “and then I was like, ‘I don’t want to hear anymore.'”
The alleged victim explains that she also observed posts on Twitter from Tate that referred to an unnamed female through derogatory slang around sex, literally being submitted to Twitter while she was still in the room with him the day after the alleged rape. One of his Tweets read, “The train tickets were on the low,” explained the alleged victim, which said translates to “easy to drive a train through.” A “train” in sexual contact implies several males having sex consecutively with the same woman.
As she looked back at his Tweets from the actual night of the alleged rape, one post from Tate read: “She’s loving the crew, that’s my ho too,” referring to the casual relationship she and Tate had in the past that had ended long before the alleged rape. As a result of the Twitter posts, the alleged victim says she was now also the victim of an unfair reputation and mockery on the military academy campus. Hesitant to report the incident, largely due to disappointing her own mother and the shame commonly associated with being the victim of rape, the alleged victim finally came forward in September 2012, but still reluctant, it was until January 2013 when she actually shared the entire story and events that she recalled taking place.
The hearing continues next Thursday, September 5, in which the alleged victim can anticipate her morals and character will be further scrutinized as the defense tries to prove that she was not only willing, but that through the overall manner in which she lives her life, this event was her own doing and responsibility.
The larger issue remains with no solution in sight, as Jane Herman, a longstanding congressional critic of how the military responds to sexual violence and assault throughout recent history, says, “While the report shows modest improvement, we’re far from Mission Accomplished. Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”
Would keeping women out of the military solve the problem? Absolutely not, as male-on-male rape is just as common, as reported by the Pentagon with estimates of over “13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty endured sexual assault while 12,100 of the 203,000 women in uniform experienced the same crime — or 38 men per day versus 33 women per day.”
Disturbing numbers. Meanwhile, male or female doesn’t take away from the fact that both are victims. Will the military handle this present investigation in a manner that can eventually lead to implementing changes in the military that can prevent rape from continuing to increase? For the sake of those in the Naval Academy and serving this country, one can only hope.
Written by Ginger Vieira