Recent information shows that the military has not been forthcoming when declaring that military related assaults and sexual harassment incidents have been dropping. The latest report indicates that over the past year more than 26,000 sexual assaults occurred during the year 2012. The real facts point to even higher numbers.
An important report from the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office found that there had been an increase in the number of assaults by 6%. In real time that adds up to 3,374 soldiers being assaulted in 2012.
The 26,000 reported this year represents a 27% increase over the 19,000 reported the previous year. However, that number doesn’t take into account the thousands of unreported assaults the victims could not bring in front of their superiors. The Department of Defense likes to refer to sexual assault as Military Sexual Trauma, (MST). The Military is quick to come up with a name for something as callous as rape, knowing how many cases there are is another story.
The glaring question should be, with a 27% increase in rape cases over the last year, why haven’t these incidents been reported? What could be causing so many victims to not report such horrific crimes?
An investigation by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in March of this year, shed some light on the issue of rape in the military. The case Sen. Gillibrand was looking into concerned itself with the perception that the victim may have felt a fear from his/her superiors . When a victim fails to fill out a report after someone raped them, explains the military, it is because the victim has fears of retaliation. The Senator was trying to bring this culture of fear into the open for everyone to see.
The case Sen. Gillibrand was investigating concerned itself with Sgt. Rebekkah Havrilla. The Senator learned from her testimony about the permissive violent culture in our military. Havrilla told the subcommittee of the U.S. Army’s failure to provide proper assistance following several instances of alleged sexual assault and rape.
Outraged, Gillibrand responded by saying, “When you enter the military, you may expect to lose a limb. You may expect to lose your life. But no one should be expecting to be assaulted or raped by one of their colleagues.”
The co-founder of the Service Women’s Action Network, Anu Bhagwati, commented on how important it is to involve the civilian courts with military rape cases. More importantly, she may have struck a chord with Gillibrand when she offered a series of possible reforms that would directly affect the military criminal justice system.
There was a case where the Air Force’s chief of sexual assault prevention, Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, himself was arrested for sexual assault. Officers who use their authority to do the very act they were responsible to prevent, must be stopped. This culture of making the victim of the crime of rape feel so afraid of retaliation by their superiors that they leave the crime unreported, must be investigated by Congress. Folks like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand must continue to intervene for our soldiers.
Richard Andrew is a guest blogger for Ring of Fire.