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1 in 3 Women in the Military Have Been Sexually Assaulted

1 in 3 Women in the Military Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Imagine yourself as a woman in the military today? What would your job be like?

In South Korea a senior officer says to you, “It’s Friday afternoon, why don’t you take off your blouse and get comfortable?”

On another night at a party in your base commander’s house, you are grabbed and bound with duct tape to another pilot despite resisting.

In Germany you escape sexual assault from an intoxicated master sergeant only after some of your co-workers intervene.

In South Carolina you are surrounded by pornography on computers you share with your unit and are told to keep quiet.

In Arizona you endure sexual remarks by an Air Force pilot in front of your husband and when you complain to the operations director of the squadron you get a reputation for being “too outspoken.”

Imagine now that you are the woman who endured all five of these incidents and numerous more throughout your 17-year career in the U.S. military.

Meet Jennifer Smith, an Air Force technical sergeant, who has finally come out to share her experience of repeated sexual assault and harassment throughout her career.

Smith is not alone. While more than 3,000 sexual assault cases were reported in 2011 throughout all military services, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has said that the actual figures could actually be as high as 19,000 because so many incidents aren’t reported or covered up. In fact, the Defense Department has found that nearly 1 in 3 women in the military has been sexually assaulted.

According to Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, “The goal for sexual assault in the United States Air Force is zero. 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.”

On paper this sounds great, but what if it’s the supervisors that are the perpetrators of the abuse?

Take for example Army General Jeffrey Sinclair from Fort Bragg in North Carolina who is being accused of 26 violations of military law including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, possessing pornography while deployed and conduct unbecoming of an office.

Sinclair’s charges involve inappropriate sexual relationships with four female subordinates and one civilian. Over the course of five years he sexually abused all five women, one of whom he threatened to kill if she reported the abuse.

Both Sinclair’s hearing and Smith’s reporting of her abuse leave me feeling very conflicted. On the one hand, I feel happy and empowered that women are speaking up against this horrific abuse of power and holding their perpetrators accountable, but on the other hand I feel frustrated and angered that women who serve their country continue to endure such hostile conditions by the men they work with hand in hand to protect our country.

War is for enemies, not comrades.


Related from Care2:

Dispatches From The War on Women: A Military Rape Scandal

Military Labels Rape Victims “Crazy”

Fox Pundit Says Women In The Military Should ‘Expect’ To Be Raped


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Photo credit: Photo by the U.S. Military used under a Creative Commons license.

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11:53AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

What a disgrace. Put women in charge. Put in place better Psch evaluations for all men. Women should also learn better self defense skills so they can beat the shit out of these raping bastards if ever needed.

11:34AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

As others say it is about power over another person usually physically weaker than them so it is very cowardly, decent people protect those weaker than themselves wether they are in the forces with them or outside! that's what decent people do or should.
This is really disgracefull & further shows the military is very badly trained & does not check the personnel properly no wonder they run amok at home & abroad so often the less intelligent make up the majority gun fodder for the military, just very sad!

decent people protect

6:41AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

No one should ever ask the question "Why would any woman want to serve knowing this(rape )could happen.Would any one dare to ask a man "Why do you drive your car on the streets if you know accidents occur? If a woman decides to serve in the army it is her CHOICE, which is influenced by her personal situation in life and must be RESPECTED. It is a choice made by a woman and NO ONE has the right to question that DECISION. .HOWEVER, this does in no way implicit that a woman serving in the army is to be looked upon as potential recruit for a man´s low, illict,unchecked carnal desire and probably in many cases adulterous act!!!!!!!!!.THIS BARBARIC BEHAVIOUR IS INTOLERABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE.I always had the impression that to serve one´s Country,whether you be a man or a woman, was an Honourable thing to do...then why are some men bringing shame upon the Army in which they serve,their Country,their Female Comrades but most of all themselves...the rapist. I once wrote a comment on this subject"Soldiers ,women or men join the Army to batttle the common enemy not turn on their own like malignant cancer!

5:49AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

Can this rubbish "tradition" be changed?

5:27AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

What a disaster. Why would any woman want to serve knowing that this could happen to her. Sad. Something must be done. Now.

3:44AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

The only way to stop this is to hold any man no matter his rank accountable with a dishonored discharge at the first incident of sexual harassment or rape. Then they should be held legally liable in a civilian court of law. We must stop it the minute a woman solder is being assaulted.

5:35AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

9:12PM PST on Feb 5, 2013

disgraceful,women are not an object and should not be treated as that

7:24AM PST on Dec 29, 2012

This is disgusting, service men treating women like this.

7:08AM PST on Dec 29, 2012

A dear friend was gang-raped in the service, followed by time in a psych hospital without her family having been notified. She is considered "retired" and not a soul involved was tried. The full truth was only discovered - and her memory jogged - when a psychiatrist was able to read the foreign language on her military records and discussed it with her. And, yet, she remains proud to be a veteran and copes daily with the PTSD that is her taskmaster. Without her hope in God, I don't know where this would have left her.

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