Alongside the big three scandals currently rocking the nation, another is brewing within the U.S. military. According to a recent Pentagon report, 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year—that’s up 35 percent from 2010. The increase is due to victims being more willing to report the crimes and also a broadening of the definition of “sexual assault.”
Contrary to the Pentagon's report, there have been reports that these numbers are incorrect due to false reports of sexual assault:
False complaints of sexual abuse in the military are rising at a faster rate than overall reports of sexual assault, a trend that could harm combat readiness, analysts say.
From 2009 to 2012, the number of sexual abuse reports rose from 3,244 to 3,374 — a 4 percent increase.
During the same period, the number of what the Pentagon calls “unfounded allegations” based on completed investigations of those reports rose from 331 to 444 — a 35 percent increase.
In 2012, there were 2,661 completed investigations, meaning that the 444 false complaints accounted for about 17 percent of all closed cases last year. False reports accounted for about 13 percent of closed cases in 2009.
Despite the disparity in number of assaults, lawmakers are still calling for changes, and President Obama spoke out for more oversight by the military in the proper handling of sexual assault cases. The situation has been made even worse by reports that some service members responsible for preventing such crimes have been allegedly involved in sexual assault themselves.
In response to the scandal, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the armed services to immediately re-train, re-credential and re-screen tens of thousands of military recruiters and sexual-assault prevention officers. Lawmakers are also considering stripping commanders of their sole authority to decide whether complaints of sexual assault go forward.
During congressional hearings on the issue of sexual assault in the military, Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh came under fire for citing a “hook-up culture” for part of the problem. He was accused, in essence, of blaming the victim. Welsh quickly recanted, saying, “I am sorry about that because there is nothing that is further from the truth as far as I personally feel.”
Even if Welsh didn’t mean to blame the victim, there are some who do. One study found that half of the women polled think that rape victims are to blame for “wearing a short skirt, accepting a drink or having a conversation with the rapist” or “dancing in a provocative way or flirting.”
When it comes to sexual assault and women in combat specifically, columnist Phyllis Schlafly wrote that “military women are already complaining about increased sexual assaults, and of course those problems will skyrocket. Only men will be deemed at fault because it is feminist ideology that men are innately batterers and women are victims.”
Some of the left lashed out at Schlafly for blaming the victim instead of the man: “If the rate of (male-on-female) sexual harassment goes up when women serve in combat positions, only men will be deemed at fault because only men will be at fault.”
While I am no lover of radical feminism and am opposed to women in combat positions (for reasons other than sexual temptation), I think it is a mistake for conservatives to blame the victim in any fashion when it comes to sexual assault. I think to do so shifts blame from where it belongs—on the evil actions of the perpetrator—and reinforces the perception that conservatives don’t care about women.
The argument that women should not serve in the military because they might be sexually assaulted assumes that men in our military have no self-control. This is an unfair assumption—about men in general. It has been my experience that good men behave themselves no matter how a woman acts or dresses or how intimate their working conditions are. And he especially behaves himself when she is simply a co-worker and not doing anything to “tempt” him other than being a woman.
Bad men rape women. Bad men assault women. Bad men take advantage of women even when women have placed themselves in compromising positions, which still does not make her “responsible”—no more than the homeowner who leaves his door unlocked is “responsible” for getting robbed.
What do you think? Should conservatives be careful not to blame the victim when making arguments about women in combat, or do you think this is a legitimate argument despite heightened sensitivity to the issue, particularly among young women—a group conservatives are trying to win over?