Rape Culture of the American Military
Last year there were over 3,300 rapes in the military, a 6 percent increase, and an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults. How and why are rapes in the US Military increasing? Some might say it’s due to system that is based on institutionalized sexism. Recently, the Pentagon announced that the very Air Force officer that was in charge of sexual assault prevention was himself charged with sexual assault.
When asked about the increase in rapes, President Obama said the U.S. needs to be “exponentially stepping up our game to go at this hard.”
It’s known that rapes are grossly underreported in the Department of Defense. Statistically speaking, there are about 1.12 rapes per 1,000 employees, while the Justice Department says there are about two rapes or sexual assaults per 1,000 American women and 88 percent of rape victims are between the ages of 12 and 28 years old. So what happens when a female soldier reports that she has been raped or assaulted? All to often, these girls are bullied or shamed into silence by their commanding officers, while being convinced that she must accept this as a reality of military life for women.
Thousands of rapes in the military go unreported or simply ignored each year and one of the contributing factors is that women must report rape to their commanders who then have the authority to decide whether or not to bring the rape case to trial. Democratic Senator,Kristen Gillibrand, believes women in the military shouldn’t be at the mercy of their commanding officers as “no where else in America do women have to report sexual assault to their bosses.” Thus, Sen. Gillibrand has recently introduced a proposal that would let military prosecutors – rather than women’s bosses – decide whether to bring rape cases to trial.
This has become such a hot button issue that television, film and even web television series have been addressing the topic. In 2012 Ilene Chaiken and Jennifer Beals partners to produce their web series Lauren. Lauren stars Troian Bellisario and Jennifer Beals as Sergeant Lauren Weil and Major Jo Stone. Lauren’s decision to report being gang raped by several male soldiers grows more complicated as she moves up the chain of command to Major Stone. Imitating life, Lauren does not receive empathy from her commanding female officer; but rather, she is met by the cold veneer of Major Stone suggesting that only women who think they’re “special” expect to escape a career in the military without being sexually harassed. But soon its apparent that both women are victims of a system that is almost constructed on the foundation of false masculinity and institutionalized sexism. Each character thinks she is doing what is best in the midst of an impossible situation-while still managing to serve her country with honor.
To the same point, we as citizens are also responsible for demanding more from our political leaders, legislators and the men in our lives. We must recognize that the abuse of women is not just festering, it is spreading like a cancer. We must support women in giving them the resources they need and the protection they deserve.
For more information on how you can stand behind Sen. Gillibrand’s proposal to tackle sexual assault in the military visit: