According to a Pentagon survey reported by NPR this morning, 1 in 4 women serving in the US military have been sexually assaulted. Just last week Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) noted that the only 1 of 10 reported attackers are held accountable by the military. This comes on the heels of a sex-with-recruits scandal detailed by Reuters in January at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas where 6 drill sergeants have been convicted and 6 more instructors are undergoing a court-martial.
NPR’s story explained:
The Pentagon estimates that only 14 percent of sexual assaults get reported. Many victims say their rapists outranked them, and sometimes the perpetrator was the same official they’d have to report the crime to. This was the case for Rangel.
. . .
Women in the military face a higher risk of being raped multiple times, according to the Pentagon’s research.
. . .
The “command’s attitude toward rape” is why most victims don’t report. They see a chain of command and a military justice system that almost never gets justice for victims, while often allowing perpetrators to stay in the service.
These stories make me hang my head in shame. Not only for what people are doing but why we seem incapable of preventing it. This isn’t a new problem, it has been an issue for as long as I can remember (this Truthout.org op-ed is a good round-up of recent history).
I’m concerned the military’s continued pace of lowering admission standards for new recruits is making the problem worse. Here is how Slate described the problem back in 2008:
In order to meet recruitment targets, the Army has even had to scour the bottom of the barrel. There used to be a regulation that no more than 2 percent of all recruits could be “Category IV”—defined as applicants who score in the 10th to 30th percentile on the aptitude tests. In 2004, just 0.6 percent of new soldiers scored so low. In 2005, as the Army had a hard time recruiting, the cap was raised to 4 percent. And in 2007, according to the new data, the Army exceeded even that limit—4.1 percent of new recruits last year were Cat IVs.
Military recruiters have also been reported to have helped people pass drug tests, hide criminal history’s, and ignored evidence of mental health problems.
I don’t know of any studies showing a link between recruiting standards and sexual assaults but I think it might be worth an investigation. People deserve a second or even third chance. The military has always been a place where that could happen, where men and women could turn their lives around, serve their country, and become outstanding human beings. However the military can’t ignore the obvious needs for supervision and better training.