Sexual Assault – a Nasty Side Effect of Army Gender Policies
The tragic reality – a female soldier is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed in combat.
In June 2013, General Ray Odierno testified before the Senate that, “combating sexual assault and sexual harassment within the ranks is our number one priority.” Call me antiquated, but I’ve always thought that closing with and destroying the enemy in battle ought to be the military’s number one priority, but he had no choice. Political pressure to address the growing realization of the sheer extent of sexual assault in the ranks forced the hand of military leaders. Yet, despite the frenetic attempts by Army leaders to address the issue, a singular fact undermines their efforts – Army gender policies foment sexual assault.
For two years, my duties have afforded me a front-row view of senior Army commanders attempting to get their arms around the problem of sexual assault. Commanders assemble monthly at the sexual assault review board (SARB), a mandatory forum to discuss each sexual assault case to ensure it is being handled properly. Victim care and advocacy take center stage as well as thoroughness in seeing the case to completion. Each commander must give an account and explain what he is doing to address sexual assault within his formation.
“We’re really getting after it, Sir” each commander will affirm to the general, followed by a list of vague actions they’ve taken to “get after” sexual assault. Innovations such as having squad leader-led discussions during physical training or hiring civilian agencies to teach the soldiers that rape is wrong or putting up posters in the barracks typify the discussion.
Sexual assault has become big business. The Army created an entire cottage industry to assist commanders in “getting after” the problem. Known as the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program or SHARP, each base’s program is led by a senior Army officer, a lieutenant colonel. As part of the program, we’ve flooded units with legions of experts, Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and Unit Victim Advocates (UVAs), to assist in administering the program.
In 2008, the Army launched I. A.M. Strong, it’s campaign to combat sexual assault. Other leaders developed their own supplementary programs such as the “Not in My Squad” or the “Take Back the Night” campaigns. SHARP folks plaster posters, banners, and displays across unit common areas declaring unwavering commitment to the program. It’s almost Orwellian. We’ve designated April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and my post is recognizing it with events such as a scavenger hunt and a SAAM motorcycle ride.
And the sad fact is that none of this will likely prevent a single rape.
In fairness, we’ve become much better in responding to sexual assault but not one of the specialists or programs or campaigns even scratches the surface of cause. The issue is that Army gender policies contribute to the problem.
Each month, I’d sit in the SARB listening to our hapless attempts to treat the symptoms of a problem while we lament the actual problem. Each month I’d leave the meeting furious.
It came to a head at last month’s SARB when I could no longer bite my tongue.
There are essentially two types of sexual assaults that occur in the military. There is the actual predator, the pedophile, the pervert, the depraved soldier who rapes his neighbor or his wife or his child or his special needs child. These are in the minority but they exist. Unless the accession process identifies and eliminates them before getting to the unit or a vigilant leader can identify him before he acts, the military or civil justice system is left to clean up the mess.
Mostly though, young male soldiers rape young female soldiers, usually under the influence of alcohol.
There is no trend. There is no deviation. This is the vast majority of Army sexual assault cases and has been ever since the Army started keeping records a number of years ago.
It goes like this. The soldiers find the club, drinking and partying as soldiers do. At some point, a young man starts to feel randy and slices the young lady away from the herd. They end up in the barracks or at a buddy’s home downtown. The young lady doesn’t like the way things are going and attempts to put on the brakes. The young man, inflamed by lust with inhibitions lowered by alcohol, takes what he desires by force – two lives destroyed in an instant.
Back to the SARB, the senior NCO in charge of the program stood and lamented the fact that despite the units “getting after” it, he’s seen little effect over the course of three years.
I raised my hand and suggested that perhaps the problem was that we’ve taken young men who have no regard for young women and housed them with those same young women. Throw in binge drinking and who would’ve thought there’d be sexual issues. I further suggested that if the program was having no effect but the problem persisted, would it not be prudent to at least consider another course.
You’d have thought I suggested mass castrations, the literal pin drop. The general sat in silence. The SHARP lieutenant colonel immediately jumped up and affirmed that “we’re all just soldiers” and the other commanders stared blankly, though I imagined a few subtle nods.
“Well, we can’t roll back Army policy so…” the general finally responded and just like that, we moved on with the meeting as if I’d never spoken. The general and the SHARP lieutenant colonel perfectly summarized the issue. The Army policy of “we’re all just soldiers” ignores reality and places young women at the rapist’s mercy.
On January 24, 2013, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Martin Dempsey, announced the lifting of the Combat Exclusion Policy that barred women from serving in direct combat units. As Panetta declared, “If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed, color, gender or sexual orientation.”
With that, the Army eliminated the last discriminator between male and female. We’re all just soldiers…or are we.
Here is the problem. In their sin, men excel at the oppression of women. From the curse in the Garden, all men have the disposition to rule or dominate women in an abusive fashion. (Genesis 3:16) Men must be taught to treat women well. Young men have to be taught to be nice to young women. I didn’t have to teach my young sons to be mean to my granddaughter. They automatically know how. I am currently teaching them to be nice to her, to cherish her, to treat her with regard.
The Army teaches exactly the opposite. Take a young man with no father to teach him how to treat young women, an increasingly common scenario. This young man goes through basic training alongside a young woman. He lives with her. He works with her. He suffers alongside her. She is just like him, or so he is taught. She is a fellow soldier and even a combatant as the Modern Army Combatives Program makes no distinction for gender. Upon arrival in the unit, they share a hallway in the barracks and when they go to the field, they share a tent and over and over, it is reinforced that they are all just soldiers.
There is nothing special or distinctive about this young lady! She is just another soldier. This is official Army policy.
So when they are drunk together, why wouldn’t he take what he wants from her? Young men take things from other young men all the time and he has no special regard for her. His sinful flesh readily yields to his lustful desires. Absent the common grace of the Gospel or the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, he does what men have always done.
And what is the Army’s response but to attempt to co-opt the pervasive hook-up culture. We’ve even hired a civilian firm to train our soldiers how to safely hook up. The Got Your Back program teaches soldiers how to negotiate the hook-up and how to tell when the hook-up is diverging toward an assault.
I find it shameful and had to walk out on the training.
As we are confined to the secular, we are left to exactly this, to treat symptoms of this issue. Because we cannot speak of the sin of men, we may not address the sin of men, and we find ourselves attempting to coerce godly behavior from the godless apart from God, a futile endeavor indeed.
Army gender policies have set the perfect conditions for rape. The only thing more we could do would be to buy their drinks for them or make the barracks rooms co-ed (something that I fear is already on the way).
The only solution is to quit this ridiculous notion that men and women are identical. Why must they be? Why must the God-given uniqueness of our gender somehow render us incompatible for service? Why must an acknowledgment of our differences yield discrimination?
Sadly though, we’ll continue to muddle about and “get after” the problem while every weekend, another young lady’s life is shattered by the horror of sexual assault.
**The opinions contained are the personal opinions of the author. They express no official policy or reflect no official stance.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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