Friday 17 May 2013

Sex abuses  in  the  American  armed  forces


As many as 200,000 active duty women are serving alongside their band of brothers in the US armed forces. Thirty-three percent of them are abused by men in the armed forces. Sexual assaults are notoriously under-reported. 80% of the abuses were never reported because the women didn’t believe that they would be believed. For this reason, they suffer alone. It is so well known that sex offenders go unpunished and victims penalized for reporting incidents, that most say nothing. Rape by a fellow serviceman also represents the most unfathomable betrayal to a soldier,


Michelle Jones describes how she was still lying on the floor of her room in the barracks, her ripped shorts by her ankles, when her rapist stood over her and said, “I'll tell everyone you're a dyke and you'll get booted out if you report this.”


Rape is a devastating crime. Some women are badly injured. Some become pregnant and some contract HIV or some other sexual disease. But the emotional trauma can even be worse than any physical injury. Women who are raped have nightmares, panic attacks, waves of self-doubt, and an overwhelming sense of distrust. The lives of women who are raped are forever changed. Rape in any circumstance is brutal, but in the military the worst effects are compounded because the victims are ignored, their wounds left unattended and the psychological damage that follows festers silently thereby poisoning their lives. Despite their suffering, the survivors are expected to carry on, facing their attacker on a daily basis. Unlike in the civilian world, a military rape survivor cannot simply quit his or her job and move on.


Here is another example of what happened to one of those women. Jessica was born into a military family so at age 24. She enlisted in the Army. Following basic training, she was posted half a world away at Camp Humphreys in South Korea. She was assigned to an Apache helicopter maintenance crew, one of three women in a unit of 60 men. Jessica worked hard to blend into this very macho world.  


Just weeks into her new assignment, her squad leader began making unwanted sexual comments. Then his acts turned physical when he tried to force himself on her. She was afraid to report it so she attempted to forget it, but the assault still haunted her. And later, when she was out one night, someone she knew from another base raped her.


Jessica's story is not unique. One in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world. The Pentagon released a disturbing report in May 2013 on sexual abuse in the military, saying that more than 2,900 sexual assaults were reported last year, up nearly 9 percent from 2012. Nearly two-thirds of the cases involved rape or aggravated assault. Unfortunately, only one in five females and one in 15 males in the United States Air Force would report having been sexually assaulted by fellow armed service members. Yes, men are also sexually abused by other men.          


Rick Tringale, 23, is one of few men to speak about what happened to him. He was 18 years old and in his first few weeks of training, he woke up in his bunk in the middle of the night thinking that it was raining. Someone was urinating on him. He later said, “As I came to consciousness, I realized that I was being held down with a blanket and then I was beaten.” Then after his beating, he was brutally ganged raped.



His face was a mess, his nose broken, his whole body beaten and he had been raped. He made it to the emergency department, but in the middle of the examination by the doctor, who was initially sympathetic, the phone rang. He said, “The doctor was talking to someone and looking at me at the same time.  Then, when he came off the phone, he said: 'You're a phony. Your company says you shouldn't be here. You're fine.' He sent me away. I became a different person after that. Everybody in the squad platoon knew what had happened since there was no way anyone could have missed it.”



Tringale says his life changed forever following the brutal gang rape that led to him to going AWOL from the army, and subsequently becoming homeless.”


The commanders of the units are to blame. If a commander decides a rape will not get prosecuted, it will not be. And in many respects, reporting a rape is to the commander's disadvantage, because any prosecution will result in him losing a serviceman from his unit.


Florida Today obtained the Veteran’s Affair’s preliminary findings from its sexual trauma survey of 1.67 million veterans enrolled in 1,300 VA health care facilities across the country. It examined VA records and interviewed government and private psychologists across the United States. And it used the Freedom of Information Act to seek reports and prosecution information from the military. It found that there were nearly 22,500 male veterans —more than one of every 100 former soldiers, sailors and airmen treated by the VA reported being sexually traumatized by peers or superiors during their military careers. With the survey only half over and another 1.7 million male VA patients still to question, administrators said that the final number of victims would be much higher. The VA survey counted 22,486 cases of male sexual trauma whereas it showed 19,463 cases of female sexual trauma. Obviously, this is proof that men attacking other men sexually has nothing to do with their libido. It is a power thing.



Twenty-four-year-old lance corporal Maria Lauterbach, a marine was preparing to testify that she was raped by fellow marine, Cesar Laurean. According to her statement to the military investigators, she found her attacker hiding in her room three times in the months that followed the rape. She said to the investigators, “He'd lie in wait just to scare me.” Then she went missing in 2007. It could never be proved that Laurean raped her because Laurean was later convicted of her murder.



Rape within the US military had become so widespread that it is estimated that before the Americans left Iraq, a female soldier in Iraq was more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.


In 2012, there were 2,974 cases of rape and sexual assault across the armed services. And of those, only 292 cases resulted in a military trial.                            


There are too many stories of military rape for the Pentagon to ignore but up until recently, the pentagon has more or less ignored the plight of the sex abuse victims in its armed forces. In other military systems it is regarded as a criminal offence, while in the US military, in many cases, it's considered simply a breach of good conduct. The Pentagon also claims that the increase in numbers of rapes is due to an increase in reporting rates, not an increase in rapes. That could be true but whatever the rape statistics are, the number of rapes in the American armed forces are far too many for the Pentagon to standby and do nothing. Now is the time to go into the Pentagon and begin cleaning house and remove the garbage permanently.


The sexual abuse would appear to extend even to those who were assigned the task of preventing it. For example, a sergeant assigned to co-ordinate a sexual assault prevention program in Fort Hood in Texas is under investigation for alleged abusive sexual contact involving pimping and at the time of this writing, he has been suspended from his duties. Arlington county police said Lt Col Jeffrey Krusinski faces a misdemeanour charge of sexual battery following an alleged assault in the Crystal City area of the county. A police report says the 41-year-old Krusinski was drunk and grabbed a woman's breast and buttocks. Police say the woman fought him off and called for help. Krusinski was removed from his post in the sexual assault unit after the air force learned of his arrest. Lt. Col. Darin Haas who was the manager of the sexual assault response program at Fort Campbell, Kentucky was arrested in a domestic dispute. He turned himself in to police in Clarksville, Tennessee on charges of violating an order of protection, and stalking. Haas was immediately removed as manager of a program meant to prevent sexual harassment and assault and encourage equal opportunity.


Allegations of sexual assault in the military have triggered outrage from local commanders to Capitol Hill and the Oval Office.  Sexual assaults in the military have been going on for a very long time. Why are local commanders, the politicians on Capitol Hill and the president now becoming outraged? Why weren’t they outraged long before these recent incidents?


The penalties awarded to those offenders who abuse fellow members in their units and elsewhere should be swift and heavy. The offenders should be dishonourably discharged from the military and also sent to prison. Such penalties won’t automatically stop the sexual abuses but they will certainly reduce the number of abuses by armed forces personnel against other members, be they women or men.




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