The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.
Military rape awareness week went by with little fan fare or media coverage. The nonprofit group, Veterans for Peace staged a protest at the army recruiting center on Times Square – nothing much was said about it. The same week, we discussed plans to ship 60,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. More troop deployments from a military that relies on volunteers. Volunteers who may not know that a recent survey of veterans seeking medical care from the VA reported that 1 in 3 female vets had been raped. Even more startling is the fact that 1 in 7 women in the military report that they have been sexually assaulted. What has happened to the honor and dignity of our military? Are we throwing Athena to the wolves?
Without a draft or selective service, our country’s defense depends on a volunteer army. Close to 15 % of those volunteers are women. We continue to send soldiers off to danger without any real thought about what that means. Nor do we care what happens when they leave our hallowed shores.
What do the numbers say about the state of affairs for our female warriors? According to the Military Rape Crisis Center,
- 80 percent of rapes are never reported – making it the most under-documented crime in the military.
- Up to 90% of women in the military are sexually harassed.
- 25% of the homeless population are military veterans.
- From that 25%, over 70% are said to be suffering from Military Sexual Trauma.
- At year-end 1997, sex offenders accounted for 1 in 3 prisoners held in military correctional facilities.
According to the Department of Defense’s own statistics 74-85% of soldiers convicted of rape or sexual assault leave the military with honorable discharges (meaning the rape conviction does not appear on their record!)
Rape is a heinous crime. We send our young, sometimes our best and brightest out to fight wars that never touch our lands. In recent years, more are coming back as the walking wounded than in body bags. As a nation, we need to demand that our military supports our values. Military service used to be based on esprit de corps, dignity and honor. What happened to upholding those values? What happened to the military code of honor – I will protect my fellow soldier?
The truth is that if our military cannot protect the individual rights of their fellow soldiers,
If we cannot protect human rights and treat each other with dignity,
Then we will be hard pressed to uphold the standards of the Geneva Convention or stand for anything worth respecting. We as citizens hold the responsibility of ensuring those values are represented by our military.
Catherine Scali is a veteran of the United States Air Force and works as an Information Technology Services Consultant from her home in New Mexico.