Friday, 24 October 2014

Abuses of women in the Armed Forces                         

It is beyond all understanding why men in the last century believed that women didn’t have a place in the armed forces. When I was in boot camp in the Canadian navy base (HMCS Cornwallis) in Nova Scotia in 1951, Commander Budge (as he was then) told a number of us sailors that he was shortly going to be the captain of HMCS Quebec, a cruiser and that WRENS (female members of the navy) would be serving on that ship. He was joking of course. None of us at that time believed that women would be serving on a navy ship. That was a presumption on our part that fell by the wayside.  

The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRENS) was created on July 31, 1942. This group of Canadian women volunteered to serve Canada during the Second World War at a time when women had not previously played an active role in the Canadian military.   They served Canada well. These women helped change the way society looked at women and the important role they could play in the defence of our country. Today women play an integrated part in all aspects of the Canadian Forces. They willingly faced the inequalities of the day, did great work ashore to enable the success of navy men at sea and helped push society into full acceptance of the role of women as full contributing members of the Royal Canadian Navy. Today, women serve as equals in the Royal Canadian Navy, as both regular and reserve members, ashore and at sea. The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence said in 2012, “I would not want to deploy a ship or submarine without women of all ranks among their crews.”

Alas, some of the women who served in the American armed forces had been sexually abused by the men they served with. The Tailhook Scandal that occurred in the United States between September 8th to 12th, 1991 at the Las Vegas Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada was what brought this problem to everyone’s attention who had a radio, a television set or read a newspaper. More than 100 U.S. Navy and United States Marine Corps aviation officers were alleged to have sexually assaulted at least 83 women and 7 men, or otherwise engaged in improper and indecent behavior.

The resulting investigations conducted by the Department of the Navy and the Inspector General of the Department of Defense disclosed just how serious that problem was.

As a result of the subsequent investigations, a number of officers were formally disciplined or refused advancement in rank. Controversially, military officers and observers have alleged that flag officers attending the Tailhook symposium were not held accountable for knowingly allowing the behavior in question to occur. The fact that the flag officers (admirals) ignored what was going on and weren't reprimanded, brought shame to the American navy.          
Military critics claimed that the scandal highlighted a hostile attitude in US military culture towards women that involved sexual harassment, sexual assault, and equal treatment of women in career advancement and opportunity.  I believe that the prevailing attitude in that era with respect to the role of women in the armed forces was best described in the words of a miscreant,      Lieutenant Gary Mandich, who was one of the many attendees and an alleged participant in the lewd activities who told media, “Everyone needs to seriously lighten up. What do they expect? This is Vegas baby! They call this symposium Tail hook for a reason!” unquote The term, “getting a piece of tail” means having sex with a woman. This miscreant’s statement led to a wave of public outcry which sparked numerous protests and demonstrations at the gates of naval bases across the U.S.  
In response to media reports about the Las Vegas Tailhook Association meetings, the United States Department of the Navy  launched an investigation, led by the then Naval Investigative Service under the command of Rear Admiral Duvall M. Williams, Jr. This group initially released a report which concluded that the incident was mainly the fault of low-ranked enlisted men behaving poorly. 
The Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) Barbara S. Pope refused to accept the results of the investigation, especially after Rear Admiral Williams made sexist remarks in Pope's presence, most notably a comment when he said that he believed that a lot of female navy pilots were go-go dancers, topless dancers or hookers. That statement was outrageous and any officer who would make such a statement nowadays would be turfed out of the service.                                    

When Rear Admiral, Williams issued his final report, finding that no senior navy officials bore responsibility for what occurred in Las Vegas, Pope went to United States Secretary of the Navy Henry L. Garrett III and told him that she would resign if the United States Department of the Navy did not do another report and look at what was needed to do about accountability and responsibility and the larger issues at hand. Garrett agreed with Pope, and a further investigation was conducted, headed by Derek J. Vander Schaaf, the Inspector General of the United States Department of Defense.  
Vander Schaaf's report was ultimately released in September 1992 by Acting Secretary of the Navy, Sean O'Keefe. The release of the report led to the resignation of Rear Admiral Williams, and his superior, Rear Admiral John E. Gordon, and the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, for their collective failures to conduct a thorough investigation into the Tailhook allegations.

Ultimately the careers of fourteen admirals and almost 300 naval aviators were scuttled or damaged by Tailhook. For example, Secretary of the Navy H. Lawrence Garrett III and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Frank Kelso were both at the Tailhook Symposium in 1991. Garrett ultimately resigned and Kelso retired early two years after the incident. Vice Admiral Richard Dunleavy, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare, was demoted to a two-star Admiral (from a three-star Admiral) and subsequently retired because of the scandal. Rear Admiral Wilson Flagg was censured for failing to prevent the Tailhook Symposium scandal. In the wake of Vander Schaaf's report, the Naval Investigative Service was reorganized as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) of which a TV show under the same name developed years later.

President Obama signed legislation in December, 2013 preventing commanders from overturning jury convictions for sexual assault, thereby requiring a civilian review when commanders decline to prosecute, requiring dishonorable discharge or dismissal for those convicted, eliminating the statute of limitations for courts-martial in rape and sexual assault cases and criminalizing retaliation against victims who report an assault.

In late December, 2013, the number of reported sexual assaults rose 50% over 2012. Jill Loftus, director of the Navy’s sexual assault program, which also includes the Marine Corps, said the increase in reporting suggests that more service members are starting to understand what types of behavior that constitutes harassment or assault, hence more complaints are filed.

A 2012 Pentagon survey found that approximately 26,000 women and men were sexually assaulted. Of those, only 3,374 cases were reported. In 2013, a new pentagon study found that 5,061 troops reported cases of assault. Many people are optimistic that this 50% increase in reports is indicative of victims "growing more comfortable in the system." Of these reported, however, only 484 cases went to trial, and only 376 resulted in convictions. Ninety percent of the assault victims were eventually involuntarily discharged. I don’t know if all the assaults were sexual in nature but I have presumed that some were.  Another investigation found that only one in five females and one in 15 males in the United States Air Force would report having been sexually assaulted by service members. If the men were assaulted, it is unlikely they were assaulted by the women. It is more likely they were assaulted by men who did in as a means of contempt for their victims. The Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, some involved attacks on men, mostly by other men. Out of 1,197,000 total enlisted men, approximately 1 to 2 percent are said to have experienced a form of sexual assault.

A report was published in the New York Times magazine in March 2007 which surveyed women soldiers' experience in the Iraq War showing significant incidence of post-traumatic stress syndrome resulting from the combination of combat stress and sexual assault. 15% of female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have visited a VA facility have screened positive for military sexual trauma.

Recent statistics show that in terms of number of assaults, half of the victims are men. It also states that although rare, women have previously aided men in sexually assaulting other women. Studies of male sexual assault victims have shown that they become more prone to emotional, physical, and social difficulties after being assaulted, which is comparable to women. Presumably this is because they feel less as a man after being sexually assaulted.

Currently, U.S. military rape law only applies only to female victims and male perpetrators.  Unfortunately this promotes the rape myths that men cannot be raped and that women cannot be perpetrators. Women have been known to sexually abuse men. Yet rape is largely unreported across all genders, and according to the documentary Invisible War, rape is an epidemic in the U.S. military.

As far as I am concerned, those persons (men or women) convicted of sexual assault against women or men in the armed forces should be sent to prison rather than simply being dishonourably discharged from the service.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) now serves as the Department's single point of authority for sexual assault policy and provides oversight to ensure that each of the Service's programs complies with Department of Defence (DoD) policy. It quickly obtained approval of DoD Instruction 6495.02, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Procedures, making permanent all elements of the Department's sexual assault policy.

It is a shame that in past years, so many victims of sexual abuse in the American Armed Forces were subjected to sexual abuse while their superiors ignored their plight. Hopefully, that is coming to an end. As I said earlier in this piece, deterrence is necessary and the best form of deterrence is imprisonment in Leavenworth at hard labour after a dishonorable discharge. And if a flag officer ignores a complaint, he should be dishonorably discharged also.

My message to the men in the armed forces is this:  “The women are just as good as the men when it comes to defending our countries. They should be treated as equals. Just as you wouldn't sexually abuse one of your male teammates, the same respect for them applies to the women who are fighting alongside of you. To abuse them makes you no different than the terrorists you are fighting.” 

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