Monday, May 06, 2013

The Invisible Perpetrators

As I implied in an earlier post, I saw the movie The Invisible War, about sexual assault in the military.  Our director screened the film at work, with a recorded recommendation by the Chief of Staff.

The film focuses on the experience of a dozen female (and two male) victims, especially the harrowing tale of Kori Cioca, a wisp of young woman brutally attacked by her supervisor while on active duty with the Coast Guard.  Significantly in these cases, none of the alleged perpetrators were ever charged with a crime.

Although the movie is shot through with distortions of military law and policy, I have not found even a disreputable source like me that impeaches the credibility of the victims themselves.  Still, I couldn’t help noticing that not one of the alleged perpetrators was specifically named.  It’s just speculation of course, but I can imagine two possible reasons for this.  Unlike, say, Mark Furman, who called out Michael Skakel in his book Murder in Greenwich, the filmmakers may lack the courage of their convictions.  I can’t say that I blame them; with a dozen victims, none of whose charges were considered by their chain of command to be sufficiently supported, the odds are that at least one of their stories will collapse on close examination.

The second possible reason is that certain (how can I put this?) commonalities among the perpetrators would, um, muddy the film’s message about the evil and heartless chain of command.

But having said all this, the film certainly left me with the impression that the armed services, under pressure from feminists to fully integrate females into all aspects of military operations, have by so doing created an environment in which not only do women not have sufficient protection from sexual assault, but also one in which it is very difficult to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Like the victims themselves, I would have to think hard about recommending military service to any young woman.

The film opens with a montage of recruiting commercials directed at women.  Most old commercials look hopelessly dated, and the efforts at recruiting women in earlier decades look comical to modern tastes.  But it was interesting to watch their evolution.  Whereas once the ads emphasized the compatibility between femininity and military service, contemporary commercials take the “grrrl power” angle:  today’s women can “man” (is this word still acceptable?) a machine gun, too!

Except . . . the women in the movie are demanding something that no other serviceman (oops again) has:  a law enforcement body, independent of command channels, that investigates and prosecutes sexual assault.  I don’t actually have an opinion about this demand or its effect on readiness, but I would point out the contradiction:  women demand admission to male institutions on the grounds of equality, then demand special consideration.  But nowadays, this is beside the point.

The film mocks the military’s various “training” efforts aimed at combating sexual assault.  Like most propaganda, some of these efforts deserve a good round of mocking on their aesthetic merits, but it’s worth pointing out that, in contrast to the related experience of these particular victims, most sexual assault involves the abuse of alcohol by both victim and perpetrator, and social situations that are frankly indistinguishable from the average hookup.  I understand the frustration of the women in the movie, some of whom were brutally attacked in their own quarters, that what happened to them would be characterized as “date rape,” but regrettably, the bad behavior of too many women have changed men’s baseline expectations, and not for the better.


Anonymous said...

The problem is that the old culture, in which rape could be identified and punished, was a traditional and basically Christian culture. (Yes, George Washington was a Deist, but basically Christian despite his heresies.)

The old culture said a man cannot rape his wife, end of story. The old culture said unlawful carnal knowledge was unlawful, end of story. The old culture said sodomy was unlawful and sinful, end of story.

When the 20th century brought in Cultural Marxism to destroy those standards (and they had been weakened throughout the 19th century) we lost any chance of providing meaningful protection in the old style.

Elusive Wapiti said...

"most sexual assault involves the abuse of alcohol by both victim and perpetrator"

This, I think, contributes greatly to the fact that the "conversion rate" (allegation to conviction ratio) for sexual assault is so low.

Because at the end of the day, even heavily propagandized military juries will recognize the difference between a sex offense and offensive sex.

Unknown said...

Bear in mind that a related crime, that of sexual harassment, is defined under current policy by the actions or words of an alleged perpetrator, but by the impression that the 'victim' had...I have seen this 'standard' applied so that a Drill Sergeant looking a female up and down during an in-ranks inspection was accused with much-ado of 'undressing with his eyes' and looking at her breasts. Of course, she was wearing crooked rank insignia which, on the ACU, is directly over a woman's breasts.
The Drill Sergeant was eventually found to be innocent, so to speak, though he went through quite a lot and was moved to another training company before all was said and done. For nothing.

Dr. Φ said...

Hasan: that's a story I'd like to use myself. Can you point me to a reference?

Anonymous said...

In the military it's as if every problem with civilian sexual assault is amplified, both in the degree to which it can happen, and the degree to which punishments against it can be abused.

For starters, Army rules against inter-sexual interactions are so ridiculous that they're universally ignored. Every time our platoon had a light work day, males and females wrestled and flirted in ways that broke every single rule. Everybody had fun, but we were one complaint away from being in serious trouble (for nothing).

Males and female can end up in very close quarters for extended periods of time. This increases the potential for males wanting the females, but sometimes it goes both ways. There's intense temptation for everybody.

Not only does this increase the chance for genuine sexual assault, it also increases the chance for misunderstanding and the ability for females to make false accusations to get back at a superior.

Sexual interaction with a female can be considered assault if she's had as little as one drink no matter how aggressively she gave consent. At the same time, even relatively gender-balanced units have far more males than females, so the males do get overly aggressive and do commit some genuine crimes.

In short, it's a mess. Agressive males have more opportunity to exploit the females, unethical females have more opportunity to abuse the system, awkward males are more likely to simply do something stupid and have the book thrown at them, and the "rules" are so comprehensive and onerous that nobody even attempts to follow them.