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Friday, February 1, 2013

The Rape Myth About Women in Combat


There are a myriad of idiotic reasons that have been given in the last week why women shouldn't serve in combat arms positions, why it's a travesty that Sec. Panetta lifted the Combat Exclusion Policy with a unanimous recommendation from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In my opinion, the worst reason offered--and I've seen it offered many times--is that women serving in mostly-male infantry platoons or companies in remote outposts could possibly be raped. The logic goes that if you're the only woman among 30 or so men, urges could take control, and rape/sexual assault would be inevitable.

I just want to say that I am SO grateful we have finally isolated the magical ingredients that create an environment in which rape or sexual assault is tolerated in the military: a woman (or a few) surrounded by horny, impulsive men in a combat zone out in the middle of nowhere.

This is, of course, a myth that has gained currency with those previously opposed to women in combat but glad to have found a reason that strikes a chord with people completely unaware of the obvious problem in this argument.

Rape and sexual assault in the military has been a huge issue for quite some time. 1 in 3 women currently serving will experience a sexual crime during her career, and I'm pretty sure none of them were serving at a remote outpost in a combat arms platoon when it occurred.

And there is no "perfect storm" of circumstances that are needed to let sexual crimes against women occur during their service.

Women in the military are raped or sexually assaulted both state-side and overseas, in uniform and in civilian clothing, on-duty and off-duty, by enlisted personnel and officers, by the service members they lead and the service members who lead them, etc.

1 in 3 women.

Of course, advocates seeking to reform our current system of addressing (and preventing) sexual crimes in the military have been fighting for decades on this issue, and in that time, there have been many (the vast majority of whom are men) who have pushed back against these attempts for reform.

So, I find it interesting that many of these men who have repeatedly shown a lack of concern for sexual crimes in the military are suddenly quite interested in this subject now that women are permitted to serve in combat roles.

No, this doesn't come out of a place of concern for the safety of women in uniform. It is an attempt  to use a horrific issue to persuade others that women don't belong in combat.

And why? Because these men can't stand the thought of a woman succeeding where they have either struggled to succeed (somehow making their accomplishment less challenging?) or a woman succeeding where they never had the guts to try (fear of emasculation).

It's childish, it's inaccurate, and it's driven by a disgusting motive.

So, please spare me the half-baked idea that women are going to be any safer from sex crimes among their brothers-in-arms in a combat zone than here at home on a U.S. military base because it just isn't so.

Furthermore, I find it personally insulting that those who make this point seem to be implying that men in combat arms are somehow prone to uncontrollable urges to rape or sexually assault women.

You know what prevents sexual crimes from happening in a unit? Good leadership. A commander putting their foot down and setting a good command climate, doling out harsh punishments for sexism and anti-woman sentiment, and swiftly bringing predators in the ranks to justice instead of burying a case... THAT is what makes everyone safer and certainly not keeping all the "women folk" away.

It would be like saying: "There have been several incidents in which Soldiers have committed war crimes against civilians. So, instead of asserting command and demonstrating such atrocities will be severely punished, we're going to make sure we don't send our troops into civilian areas."

When service members are held to a higher standard that is enforced, they will respond by meeting it. When it is expressed to them that they are animals over which a commander is trying to mitigate inhuman behavior, you're far, far more likely to see service members engage in inhumane behavior.

Please stop pushing forward an argument that is not borne out of logic but insecurity.

- A Former Infantryman

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  1. I think that with this change in policy there should be a higher punishment for sexual assaults and also a better setup for reporting sexual abuse.

  2. Found this on the internet-- thank you for taking the time to confront this issue, and so eloquently too.

    Furthermore, having studied "rape culture", I don't think segregation, or treating women as incapable of handling themselves in combat, is going to prevent any rape whatsoever-- rather, maintaining conditions where women are seen as less capable of men, and artificially limiting their potential through the combat exclusion ban, could have the opposite effect. Predators who see that women are not taken seriously by the military, who are prevented by the institution itself from advancing through the "brass ceiling", and knowing that the chain of command is most likely going to be men who have little to no experience dealing with sexual assault, makes for conditions that are easier for predators to operate in.

    Furthermore, I should think that the brave men in our armed forces would not like to be associated with rapists and predators, and that they do not belong in the ranks of the military-- and if they commit a crime, they should be accountable for it. Trust is integral for unit morale-- how much trust can you truly have if your fellow soldier, sailor, or airman-- is a sexual predator? Rape is not just a liability for the women that serve in the armed forces, it is a liability for every member of the armed forces-- and it needs to be dealt with.


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