Can sexual assault or rape ever just be incidental to a job? Is it conceivable that someone can sign up for a job where a high risk of sexual assault would be considered somewhat normal? According to the American Military sexual assault is, essentially, just part of the job.
The astonishing statement is part of a response to a lawsuit filed by American soldiers against the Pentagon alleging sexual assault and harrassment by other members of the Armed Forces.
According to Neil MacDonald at the CBC there is a severe lack of accountability within the American military. Last year almost 3,500 people formally complained of sexual assault in the U.S. military. The Pentagon admits that only 238 of these complaints resulted in convictions. The remaining complaints were either dismissed or resulted in minor administrative punishments.
According to the documentary Invisible War about the American military, a female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire!
Fox guarding the hen house?
What happens when those assigned to protect, investigate, and prevent sexual assaults are the ones committing the offences? Just this week the U.S. Army announced that a sergeant first class who had been involved with an assault prevention program at Fort Hood in Texas, is being investigated for allegations of sexual assault. While the soldier has been suspended from all duties, no charges have been filed.
While not an assault on a member of the military, the recent charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski of the U.S. Air Force also reflects another example of the proverbial fox in the hen house. Krusinski was the chief of the U.S. Air Force’s sexual assault prevention branch when he was charged with sexual battery in May, 2013. According to reports, the officer drunkenly approached a woman in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks. Interestingly, Krusinski faces trial on July 18th for his alleged assault, while the officer in the Army involved in an alleged assault involving subordinates still has not faced charges.
No-different in Canada
As a sexual abuse lawyer, I have represented victims of military sexual assault here in Canada. According to an article posted on The Canadian Encyclopedia the Canadian military has a similarly poor record in protecting it’s femal memebers from sexual abuse and in holding abusers responsible.
It is interesting the CBC reported on the sexual assault report from the Pentagon, but not about the occurrence of sexual assault in our own military.
Shortly after the results of the American study were published, The National Post reported that the Canadian Forces is surveying it’s members to try to determine the extent of military sexual assault. The survey specifically seeks to shed some light on the hidden crime of male on male sexual assault in the military.
Victims of sexual abuse have long been unfairly stigmatized. Survivors are reluctant to come forward lest it affect their families or careers. It appears that this prejudice and lack of accountability is alive an well in Armed Forces on both sides of the border.
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