Quote of the Day: “The military says they have zero tolerance, but in fact that’s not true.”

The recent spate of sexual assault prevention officers arrested has driven home how entrenched the military’s sexual assault problem really is. A few days after the latest scandal–three Navy football players are being investigated for raping a female midshipman at a party last year–some former servicewomen weighed in on the problem over at TPM. Dr. Katherine Scheirman, a retired Air Force colonel, says:

“The military says they have zero tolerance, but in fact that’s not true. Having a sexual assault case in your unit is considered something bad, so commanders have had an incredible incentive not to destroy their own careers by prosecuting someone.

The article, which is worth a full read, touches on some of the factors standing in the way of real change–from the fewer options for recourse available to women in the military than to civilians, to a general culture of commercial exploitation of women, to the fact that women are still such a minority in the ranks and people continue to ask, “Do women belong here at all?”

But while it’s very important to highlight–and address–these unique problems, we should also remember that the military is very similar to other institutions in this country. The rape culture in the military, in sports, in colleges, in high schools–it’s all the same culture, just different flavors. And I think Scheirman’s quote really speaks to that. This is exactly the kind of mentality we’ve seen when it comes to campus sexual assault, too. As Alexandra reported earlier this year, UNC allegedly told employees to underreport rape cases when the numbers were “too high” and then threatened to expel a student who spoke out. It seems we’ve progressed just enough that sexual assault is considered bad enough to cover up–but not bad enough actually to eradicate. As I wrote in response to the UNC story: “being seen as having a rape problem on your campus is considered worse than actually having one.”

Until that changes–not just in the military but everywhere–nothing else will.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/sexoutofwedlock/ nicole mercier

    AND while a higher percentage of female servicemembers than male servicememebers are rape victims and survivors, men still make up I believe about 50% of military rape victims. So this problem clearly disproportionately affects female servicemembers and is connected to a legacy of the male dominator style culture we have endured for millenia, but it’s a reminder of why feminist activism is important – because it helps everyone. Men and women et alia benefit from the dismantling of patriarchy and the dominator culture, including in the case of military sexual violence.