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Is There a Culture of Rape Within the Military?

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There’s a heated argument in the comments section of this article about whether there is a “culture of rape” within the military. As with most arguments, the answer is both yes and no, and both sides are right and wrong.

It should first be noted that, as Dr. Dreadful opined, both military and civilian data indicate that the rates at which rapes and sexual assaults go unreported are roughly equal, though the reasons behind such failure to report these crimes are quite different. Second, here’s a PBS reference and a reference from McClatchy showing military rates of these crimes that are significantly higher than in the civilian community. It would seem, then, that there can be no argument against the existence of a culture of rape within the military.

To add fuel to the fire, it has been well documented that rape by military personnel has been a part of American military history from the very beginning, having been noted even by George Washington. Of course these crimes are not confined to the American military, as is clearly shown by the Rape of Nanking by the Imperial Japanese Army and the conduct of the Soviet Army as they drove through Poland and Germany on their way to Berlin. Both the Japanese and the Soviet high commands knew what their respective armies were doing and not only did nothing to stop it, but to an extent encouraged it. War is without question the greatest crime of humanity, and such unforgivable conduct is a part of war.

Nevertheless, I still maintain that the military does not in and of itself have a culture of rape. Now given the above evidence, how can I possibly make such a claim? The very notion that the military doesn’t have such a culture would seem ridiculous on its face, but there’s more to the story.

I clearly remember what the Navy was like when I arrived at my first ship, the USS Simon Lake (AS-33) back in February of 1982. My first impression was that of most boot-campers: “Wow, the work is hard, but this is still pretty cool!” With the benefit of hindsight I can look back and see just how unprofessional the ship was, from the material condition of the ship to the conduct of the personnel on- and off-duty. It wasn’t any better when I arrived on the USS Ranger (CV-61) in October of 1983. Sailors (myself included) were concerned with two things: getting drunk and getting laid; though the order depended on circumstances. I can now see that the Navy, and the entire military, was still in what I call the bad old days, still recovering from the wars in southeast Asia, because most of the higher-ups had either experienced combat or were commanded by someone who had.

But a watershed moment had already occurred: the crash of an EA-6B Prowler aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN-68). The investigation showed that several of the flight deck crew tested positive for marijuana. It was after this incident that the Navy began implementing its zero tolerance drug policy, and began emphasizing professionalism throughout the fleet, dragging us kicking and screaming into what we derisively called the “New Navy.” By the early 1990′s, having a beard on active duty was but a fond memory; a positive urinalysis test got one kicked out, no questions asked; a DWI conviction often (but not always) meant one wouldn’t be promoted, ever; and an accusation of sexual harassment usually stopped one’s career dead in its tracks. We enlisted men by and large dreaded women being assigned to our surface fleet, because we could all envision a liberal hell (I was conservative in those days) of political correctness throughout the command.

About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Clav

    Unfortunately, most people are not capable of much new thinking or questioning their indoctrination after kindergarten age.

    Is the problem that they’re “not capable,” or is it that we are all born into this particular type of society, which has been in existence for millenia, and is so all-pervasive that, as we become aware of its shortcomings, we simply opt to take the easier path of adapting ourselves as individuals to “get by” under the status quo rather than take the much more onerous, difficult and even dangerous path of resistance, for what, on the individual’s level, and in his/her lifetime, is not only not likely to be at all rewarding, it is likely to result in their lives becoming a living hell as all those indoctrinated people become aware of what they are doing, and inevitably conclude they are threatened.

    It’s not a good thing, but I think most humans, male or female, make that kind of a decision, at least on a sub-conscious level, fairly early in life.

    I’ve never been a parent, but had I been, I definitely would have thought twice about teaching my children to go so much against the societal norms as to make them outcasts and dangerous in the eyes of others.

    The result, of course, is plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Igor @ #147: I never made any presumption that the hunter/gatherer lifestyle is an automatic part of human progression; that would have been Glenn, who speaks in #128 of such a “stage”. I merely observed that the !Kung have such a culture.

    Paleontological evidence shows quite clearly, I think, that humans were gatherers long before any of them took up hunting. And in any case, it’s rarely an even division. Some groups, like the Lakota and the other Plains horse cultures of the 16th-19th centuries, relied on hunting a lot more than gathering, whereas with your local Tuitun people it seems to have been the other way around. With people who live near water it’s also arguable whether fishing is a form of hunting or gathering, since there’s very little tracking involved and it’s mostly a case of dangling your net or line into the water and waiting (although there are other, more proactive methods).

    So yes, I agree that human cultures don’t necessarily coalesce into the nice neat categories of the anthropologists.

  • Cindy

    Clav,

    Perhaps, but, would the world be much of a place for any of them without the resistance of their predecessors?

    Also, consider that resistance is not the only path of expressing one’s divergence with the cultural norms. What we say, what we believe, what we support are all ways of changing the world. There are many people engaged in positive works, associations, activities.

    I, myself, hope that I will work directly with the elderly–person to person–some time when I am free to do that. That will have to be enough for me. Like the starfish story. I have found it too constantly upsetting for me to buck the tide. That doesn’t mean I can’t do something effective and positive and to also have some personal peace.

  • troll

    …for those interested in petitioning the US government concerning this military culture of rape there is this

  • Cannonshop

    #24 But, Doc, in your Chief of Police example you ignore the fact that in MOST jurisdictions, the Chief of Police is considered to be accountable for the actions of his subordinates, and is responsible in the enforcement of, and establishment of, policies of conduct applying TO the cops under his command by way of what we call a ‘Chain of Command’ (much like in military circles-an officer is responsible for, and accountable for, the conduct of his soldiers, his commander is in turn responsible for and accountable for HIS conduct and the conduct of his peers and so on…)

    The Commander-in-Chief is responsible for the conduct of the soldiers-albeit he has several layers between himself and Joe Snuffy Private, but he is the Commander. What his soldiers do reflects on him, as does what he does in response to what they do or have done.

    Now, neither the Chief of Police in your example, or the Commander in Chief (or any given line officer below him) are really accountable for the actions of their respective opponents (i.e. the Chief has no control over the actions of Criminals, Officers no control over the actions of enemy combatants…) But both are damsight responsible for what their subordinates do, on, or off duty, when it comes to matters defined by their respective authority as ‘criminal’.

  • Igor

    Now we have a new sex scandal becoming public at our military flying schools. IIRC, about a dozen women have filed charges of molestation. And it’s been 20 years or so since the “Tailskid” scandal broached. Thus, I conclude that the military has no interest in solving these problems.

    They could solve this problem if they wanted to.

  • Tom Forehand, Jr.

    Rad G.

    It was noted: “She shows he did pay six times the normal bounty to capture one young girl, who he then had tortured.”

    By “tortured,” I assume you are referring to the claim that Lee had a woman whipped.

    Just because Norris accused Lee of whipping Norris and two others, this does not mean that Lee had anyone whipped. Please supply substantial proof, besides Mr. Norris’s testimony, that Lee ever had anyone whipped.

    If you refer to a book as proving this, please give the page number and explain how that book proves Lee whipped someone.

    Because Lee paid more for the return of Norris and two others does not prove he had anyone whipped.

    It should be remembered that Norris, himself, claimed that he was aggravated at Lee because Lee did not free Norris soon enough after Norris’s owner died. So, it is not unexpected that Norris had a reason to exaggerate some of the details of the story you are referring to.

    Thanks,
    Tom Forehand, Jr.

    P.S. It is easy to make an accusation (true or false) but it is something else to prove it. So please do so….