Military Women Wage Two Wars: Sexual Attacks & Our Nation’s Enemies

Recent events have highlighted the struggle for the women who serve in our military.  Their gender forces them to wage two wars, one against our nation’s enemies, and one against the men they serve with.

Every year thousands of women soldiers are sexually attacked and molested by their male counterparts.  A large number of those females never report the crimes, especially if they have career plans.  Complaints are either ignored, or result in their eventual exit from their chosen life’s path.

All too frequently charges against their male counterparts receive no more than a ‘slap on the wrist’, or worse yet accusations directed at the complaining woman of lies and deception.

Tandy Fink, U.S. Army, was virtually ignored by her squad leader after she twice reported a violation of her human rights.  He told her ‘there was nothing he could do about it because there was no proof’.

Tia Christopher, also U.S. Army, filed a formal complaint.  She was taken before her lieutenant commander who said ‘do you think this is funny?’  She asked him what he meant.  He asked her if ‘this was all a joke’.  He said that this was the third complaint of rape this week, and indicated that they were ‘all in cahoots’.

Former Sergeant Rebekah Havrilla of the U.S. Army was removed from active service for about a year.  She was at a training post.  She ran into her rapist at a post store.  He smugly told her he was also stationed at the same post.  Traumatized, she removed herself from training, and sought the assistance of the base army chaplain.  Among other meaningless and condescending advice, he told her that the rape was God’s will and that God was trying to get my attention so that I would go back to church.

Unfortunately, there are dozens more of these types of stories.

Technical Sergeant Jennifer Smith claims that over a 17-year career as an enlisted woman performing administrative work for Air Force fighter squadrons, said she endured numerous sexual harassments and assaults by Air Force pilots, the elite members of the predominately male Air Force hierarchy.

“I learned quickly that the enlisted females who do well are the ones who keep their mouths shut,” said Sergeant Smith, who filed a formal complaint last month charging that the Air Force has turned a blind eye to pervasive sexual attacks and harassment against women. “It’s a career ender to come forward.”

As expected, the Air Force declined to comment on the specifics of Sergeant Smith’s allegations, but issued the standard response.

“The goal for sexual assault in the United States Air Force is zero,” Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, said in a written statement. “If you’re a commander or a supervisor and you are not directly and aggressively involved in speaking up about this issue in your unit, then you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

In March, eight women stepped forward to file allegations against the military regarding sexual misconduct.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, accuses the military of having a “high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks” and “fostering a hostile environment that discourages victims of sexual assault from coming forward and punishes them when they do”. The suit claims the Defense Department has failed to take aggressive steps to confront the problem despite public statements suggesting otherwise.

The eight women included one who is actively serving in the USMC, and seven others who recently served in the Navy or Marines.  Seven claimed they were sexually assaulted or had experienced attempted rape at a pub crawl in Washington inside the commanding officer’s office, or in the Naval Air Station barracks.  The eighth filed a complaint that she was threatened and harassed while stationed in Iraq.  When she filed a complaint with her commanding officer, she was told, “it happens all the time”.

“There are no circumstances under which women who are brave enough and patriotic enough to stand up and defend this nation should have to be subjected to being called ‘slut, whore, walking mattress,” said Susan Burke, a lawyer representing the women. “This is the year 2012. This kind of conduct is not acceptable.”

The military does not appear to be taking steps that will enact appropriate punishment upon the male perpetrators of these unforgivable acts.  All too frequently they are dismissed before a military trial is convened.  Those who are prosecuted either receive no significant punishment, or have their convictions overturned by high ranking officers after their conviction.

Just today a Sergeant First Class in the United States Military Academy at West Point was accused of videotaping female cadets without their consent, sometimes when they were undressed in the bathroom or the shower, according to Army officials.

The charges are especially frustrating for the Academy.  In the past, there have been allegations of sexual impropriety, but recent additions to the staff were believed to have put an end to the problem.

The student body at West Point numbers about 4,500 cadets. Slightly more than 15 percent are female, and senior Army officials pledged immediate action to try to regain their trust.

“The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point, as well as all soldiers throughout our Army,” Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, said on Wednesday. “Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched, followed by swift action to correct the problem. Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable.”

In the more than six decades of my life in the United States, I have witnessed serious efforts by serious people to remove the label of “second class citizens” attached to the women of our country.  What I have never understood is why all women have not joined in a united and sustained effort to remove control of our nation from the male gender.  They outnumber us, and control the majority of our nation’s wealth in one way or another.

This conciliatory support for the women of our military in word only, is not new.  Those of us who served in the military witnessed frequent situations which placed the female members of our group in uncomfortable situations.

There are many in our country who continue to consider the female gender inferior, and of no value with the exception of the performance of their “wifely” duties.

But to understand that over one third of our women who are bravely serving in our military, willing to stand next to, and offer support in times of life-threatening danger to other men and women who they serve with, are sexually abused is unacceptable.

But what is more unacceptable is the military hierarchy’s defense of the men who commit these atrocities.

While Washington is attempting to maintain that certain so-called scandals are the worst things to happen to us since 9/11, they pale in importance to the degradation of the women who serve in our armed forces.

Politicians are quick to sloganize the courage and selflessness of our military.  Let’s see if they really mean what they profess, or if their words are hollow.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express

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