Recruiting Victims

US military recruiters have come under fire for dodgy recruitment tactics before, like the recent case in which an autistic teen was enlisted as a cavalry scout (he was later released), but a six-month Associated Press investigation has uncovered something well beyond questionably ethical tactics: “More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.”

Via Freedom of Information Act requests, the AP learned that at least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine Corps recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters, and 12 Air Force recruiters “were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees in 2005,” with most of the victims being between 16 and 18 years old, usually recruited at their high schools.

Frustratingly, most of the recruiters found guilty of sexual misconduct “are disciplined administratively, facing a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay; military and civilian prosecutions are rare.” Although, in what’s undoubtedly indicative of the military’s continued hostility toward gay servicemembers, a former Navy recruiter who molested three male recruits is serving a 12-year sentence. Meanwhile, male recruiters who have raped females are more likely to face only administrative discipline; an Army recruiter who raped a 20-year-old female recruit is still working as a clerk in a recruiting office.

Additionally, because the Uniform Code of Military Justice lists the age of consent at 16, “if a recruiter is caught having sex with a 16-year-old, and he can prove it was consensual, he will likely only face an administrative reprimand.” Proof of consent is always a dubious proposition (in absence of confirmation from a consenting party), but it must certainly become a whole lot easier when, instead of a judge and jury, once must only convince superiors disposed against treating sexual assault seriously. To wit: A Defense Department report from its Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response in March detailing a 40% increase in alleged sexual assaults in a single year, and female soldiers in military academies and war zones are at risk of being sexually assaulted and revictimized by inattention, yet the Pentagon just a month ago rejected a proposal for the “creation of an Office of Victim Advocate within Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office.”

I don’t often have reason to congratulate my state on doing something wise, but Indiana is the first state to treat this issue with the gravity it deserves.

But not under new rules set by the Indiana Army National Guard.

There, a much stricter policy, apparently the first of its kind in the country, was instituted last year after seven victims came forward to charge National Guard recruiter Sgt. Eric Vetesy with rape and assault.

"We didn't just sit on our hands and say, 'Well, these things happen, they're wrong, and we'll try to prevent it.' That's a bunch of bull," said Lt. Col. Ivan Denton, commander of the Indiana Guard's recruiting battalion.

Now, the 164 Army National Guard recruiters in Indiana follow a "No One Alone" policy. Male recruiters cannot be alone in offices, cars, or anywhere else with a female enlistee. If they are, they risk immediate disciplinary action. Recruiters also face discipline if they hear of another recruiter's misconduct and don't report it.

At their first meeting, National Guard applicants, their parents and school officials are given wallet-sized "Guard Cards" advising them of the rules. It includes a telephone number to call if they experience anything unsafe or improper.

Denton said the policy does more than protect enlistees.

"It's protecting our recruiters as well," he said.

The result?

"We've had a lot fewer problems," said Denton. "It's almost like we're changing the culture in our recruiting."
It’s not “almost like” that—it’s exactly that. Clearly, for a myriad of reasons, there is a culture in the military that, at minimum, excuses and, at worst, facilitates sexual assault, and nothing short of addressing head-on the policies and procedures in which that culture has bloomed will curb the problem. The military’s primary solution has been to close its eyes, stick its fingers in its ears, and say, “Nah nah nah nah, I can’t hear you!” and, if forcibly made to deal with the ugly truth, it shrugs and says, “Boys will be boys.” The lack of serious attention has only made the problem increasingly worse. From recruiting stations to the front lines, it’s time to get serious.

(Crossposted at Ezra’s place.)

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus