Monday, August 21, 2006

An Army of Scum?

Whether that's what people will think when they see military recruitment ads may come down to the decisions made in the Army and other branches of the military regarding sexual misconduct, especially by recruiters.
  • Decisions about what, if anything, the military will do to prevent misconduct.

  • Decisions about how the military will respond to reports of sexual abuse and whether criminal behavior will be treated like a true crime.
If those who set the policies and the tone assume the problem of sexual misconduct isn't worth addressing directly or that the victims are the ones at fault, then that will be reflected in a backlash against the military.

From the AP:

More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.


Weirick, the Marine Corps defense attorney who has represented several recruiters on rape and sexual misconduct charges, said it's a problem that will probably never entirely go away.

"It's difficult because of the nature of nature," he said. "It's hard to put it in another way, you know? It's usually a consensual relationship or dating type of thing." When asked if victims feel this way, he said, "It's really a victimless crime other than the institution of the Marine Corps. It's institutional integrity we're protecting, by not allowing this to happen."

It's this sort of rationalization of rape equals nature that refuses to see this abuse of power as a true problem. The only crime becomes getting caught.

Fortunately, this attitude isn't universal.

Although the Uniform Code of Military Justice bars recruiters from having sex with potential recruits, it also states that age 16 is the legal age of consent. This means that if a recruiter is caught having sex with a 16-year-old, and he can prove it was consensual, he will likely only face an administrative reprimand.

But not under new rules set by the Indiana Army National Guard. There, a much stricter policy, apparently the first of its kind in the country, was instituted last year after seven victims came forward to charge National Guard recruiter Sgt. Eric Vetesy with rape and assault.

"We didn't just sit on our hands and say, 'Well, these things happen, they're wrong, and we'll try to prevent it.' That's a bunch of bull," said Lt. Col. Ivan Denton, commander of the Indiana Guard's recruiting battalion.

The Indiana National Guard took a proactive stance that protects potential victims and which also helps recruiters avoid situations where they can rationalize away responsibility for their sexual behavior. At the first contact with a recruiter, a recruit is given a card that explains the rules and gives them a phone number to call if they experience anything that doesn't seem right.

This change means the rules are clear to all involved with a clear system in place to give the rules a backbone.

Rather than seeing themselves as one of the victims, the leadership of the Indiana National Guard looked at ways to make it harder for recruiters to commit sexual misconduct and rape. By doing so they are protecting potential victims, but they are also protecting soldiers who might have crossed the line from upstanding soldier to sex offender under the old system.

That means the answer to the question posed in the title of this post isn't fixed. The military leadership simply needs to view the fight against sexual misconduct (including rape) as a war that must be won.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:09 AM   0 comments links to this post


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