One of the videos played during the morning briefing on SAPR Day was a USAF-produced dramatic reenactment of the rape confession of “Jack M.” The confession supposedly appeared in a publication called the Manhattan Spirit. Although I can find no website for this publication, you can read the text of the confession here.
However . . . the Commander’s Curriculum Guide had this to say:
This is a real example of how offenders think. It is a good example of how they manipulate by insulating victims, justify their behaviors and even place blame on victims. It is also a good example of how a normal social situation, meeting people at a bar, drinking and socializing allows offenders to hide in plain sight and continue their criminal behaviors.
It is important to highlight that we are not focusing on the victim’s behavior here. If the audience goes straight to “why did she?” “she should have…” then they are missing the focus of this Stand Down Day. Encourage the audience to focus on the offender’s behaviors. There would not be a rape if a rapist is not present. If he didn’t rape this woman he would have found another to rape. This film will be further discussed in the facilitated small group discussions.
Anne Munch’s response reminds us to not judge the victim’s behaviors because we were not there.
The motivation behind most sexual assaults (from touching to rape) is power and control. A person can take control, humiliate, intimidate or act out power by raising a fist to someone or they can sexually assault them. Rape isn’t committed because someone can’t stop themselves during a sexual encounter or it’s a mistake- offenders intentionally perpetrate. “No” does not matter to them.
So first of all, it is not to defend Jack or justify his behavior that I point out the obvious shortcomings of this as an exercise in moral reasoning. The role of the object of Jack’s attention here goes beyond the usual “playing the drunken slut” behavior; someone can be stupid, reckless, and compromising and still be the victim of a vicious crime. Nor is it merely a matter of forensic guilt, though that plays its role; many crimes escape punishment for lack of justiciable evidence. And I will stipulate that the girl didn’t have fun, didn’t participate sexually, didn’t want to happen what actually happened. These, by themselves, are not enough.
By way of analogy, and considering the context, let’s turn to the words of the Code of the United States Fighting Force, once known as the Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct. While it no longer carries the force of law, it is still taught as an ethical guide for American prisoners of war.
Article I: I am an American, fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
Article II: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
Article III: If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
Article IV: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
Article V: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service, number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
Article VI: I will never forget that I am an American, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
So, in defense of the nation, and in keeping faith with her comrades, a female soldier is to never surrender of her own free will while she yet has the means to resist, and to continue resisting by all means available. She is to make every effort to escape, accept no special favors, and resist to the utmost of her ability. Yet it defense of her own virtue*, she is expect to do . . . what?
The Air Force is holding up as illustrative a woman who having been told exactly what Jack’s intentions were, walked under her own power from the bar to Jack’s apartment, lay down on Jack’s couch, and, while fully conscious, bore Jack’s penetration without so much as a “no”, let alone a cry for help. She then proceeded to spend the night in his bed, and depart the next morning without complaint. It is not even clear that she considered herself a victim of anything more than a lousy date, let alone a crime.
Sorry, but this won’t do at all. I’m going to insist on more effort that this. No, not a Thermopylae Pass level of resistance (though, in fact, some women offer that), but morally speaking, that cry for help is the difference between rape and fornication. By that standard, this girl didn’t even rouse herself to French levels of valor.
The point of SAPR Day is to encourage bystander intervention. Now, I have elsewhere confessed to my personal threshold for intervening on behalf of someone who isn’t related to me by blood or marriage. But as a general matter, what moral claim does anyone have that motivation of others exceed the motivation of themselves? I submit that they have no such moral claim.
SAPR Day will have to mark me “Present” for this one.
* For those of my readers you who no longer believe in virtue, or believe it irrelevant, feel free to substitute the words "sexual sovereignty" or whatever else you want. My point still stands.