Our Guys

[Trigger warning.]

by Shaker Ginmarliberal pinko commie hippie feminist female combat veteran who loves zombies and werewolves and hates trolls, twits, and MRAs.

If you click on the link and look at the first photograph on the left, you'll see a young man named Richard Corcoran. He was the son of a police detective. He was also one of the rapists in the 1989 gang rape of a developmentally-disabled girl in the basement of one of the boys' homes. Six boys left the basement, but none of them tried to stop the rape. Why became apparent as author Bernard Lefkowitz interviewed people around town: "It's such a tragedy," said one resident. "This will scar them forever." They meant the boys.

Glen Ridge families had been collecting money for the boys' defense and school teachers publicly urged students to remain 'open-minded' and 'to stand by our guys.' Four days before his trial was scheduled to start, the victim's family decided they couldn't stand any more and backed out. Richard Corcoran escaped trial and joined the Army a few years later, even after the Army was made aware of his past.

He served a tour in Afghanistan, came home, and beat up his wife. Michelle Corcoran asked for a divorce and began to see other men. Richard Corcoran had just taken an anger-management course one day when he came home, shot Michelle, shot another soldier who was there in the house, and then killed himself, with his seven-month old daughter in the house. The other two survived.

PTSD, some said. What about the rape? Was that caused by Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder, rather than post? That seems to be the line the military is taking, even though Richard Corcoran was the tenth in a ghastly string of soldiers murdering their wives since 2002 at Ft.Bragg. In one six week period, four women were killed by their husbands. This does not include the recent murders of two pregnant female soldiers and a third, murdered by men who were accused of harassing or raping them, events which occurred three years after this Salon piece appeared.

The military classifies domestic violence as happening only amongst married couples. This is known as sample or selection bias. Crimes that occur off base are also uncounted by the military, much like suicides that occur after the service members leaves the service aren't counted in the military's suicide figures. Sixty percent of service members live off post. According to those narrow standards, in 2004, there were 16,400 cases of domestic violence reported, with 9,450 substantiated. What does that mean? It means that someone in a position of authority, someone who perhaps didn't want to lose a soldier, decided that there was no merit to the case. Soldiers convicted of domestic violence, like cops, are supposed to be stripped of their weapons. With the military hurting for warm bodies, there's a substantial incentive to look the other way.

This is exactly what they did in the case of Sgt. Carlos Renteria two years ago. He choked his wife, body-slammed her, threw her onto the couch and began to smother her. It was his second arrest for domestic violence. Adriana Renteria was assured that the military would prosecute the case, and so was the local DA, who dropped his case.

Instead, Sgt. Renteria was sent off on a second tour, where he was promoted to staff sergeant and presumably placed in a position of leadership over male and female soldiers, to spread sexism to the males and contempt of women to the females. People wonder how a soldier like Stephen Green got away with planning a rape that turned into a quadruple murder and involved being out of uniform (which is in itself an offense) and going off post without permission (also an offense). I guarantee you that claims that other soldiers know nothing of this are pure bull, plain and simple. Soldiers gossip more than ladies at a church social. Other soldiers were also necessary in that someone had to open a gate for Green.

Ms. Renteria pestered the military to pursue the case, sending letters and emails and making countless phone calls. More than five years ago, after a number of women were killed by their military spouses, the Pentagon concluded in writing that the military did a better job of shielding soldiers from prosecution than it did in protecting victims. Post traumatic stress disorder tends to be blamed for these assaults and killings, despite the fact that many of the men were violent before deployment.

Contempt and skepticism for female victims are written into the very briefings that the military gives on, say, sexual assault, where the military refers to male and female victims equally, despite the fact that the military is 90% male and that its female service members tend to be young and low-ranking. Discussions of lying female victims are common. I haven't, personally, seen a briefing about domestic violence, but I've seen enough to dread it should it occur. In one case, I observed a briefing on sexual assault conducted by a sergeant who had a record of stalking and sexual harassment. A Chief Warrant Officer stood up and in response to a situation a lower-ranking female soldier described, said that anybody who didn't report sexual harassment was 'stupid.' This despite the fact that the biggest impediment to reporting any kind of sexual or domestic misconduct in the military is the military's own vengeful, skeptical attitude toward female victims, and the hatred of snitches built into the concept of honor.

Furthermore, in the case of intra-member cases, making a false accusation against a higher-ranking individual can be a court-martial offense. As seen, for example, in the recent Maria Lauterbach case, domestic violence is not limited to husbands and their civilian wives, but by the Army's standards, the accused murderer and rapist in the case cannot be charged with domestic violence. Neither can the 60% of soldiers who live off base, unmarried.

Ms. Renteria's case so disturbed the civilian prosecutor, Allen Wright, that he issued a warrant for SSGT. Renteria. The military has not cooperated and the warrant remains outstanding.

While some would blame SSGT. Renteria's crimes on PTSD, it is clear that his actions predated his deployment to Iraq. He was abusive early on in the marriage, order to anger management courses, and took one class before dropping off, boasting to his wife that he was untouchable. The military asked Mr. Wright to turn the case over to them—as it can when it wishes to handle a case—and Wright did so, assured that the military would prosecute the case.

First Sgt. Robert Simmons, the highest-ranking non-commissioned officer in SSGT. Renteria's chain of command, was concerned enough about the case that he issued a no-contact order and moved to have Renteria prosecuted on the basis of erratic behavior he had observed himself. If he had succeeded, Renteria would have been stripped of his right to carry his weapon and would have been unable to deploy to Iraq.

Instead, First Sgt. Simmons was himself deployed to Iraq and Ms. Renteria never heard from him again. The priorities of the command at Fort Riley were very clear.
Fort Riley quickly closed ranks around Sergeant Renteria. That became clear to Ms. Renteria after a brief conversation in August 2007 with an assistant at the inspector general's office. "'Honey, we are not going to bring a soldier back who beat on his wife a couple of times or because you feel things weren't done correctly,'" Ms. Renteria said, recalling the conversation. "'He is over there fighting for his life.'"
The inspector general is the office which investigates crimes on base, or at least is supposed to.

Ms. Renteria called Mr. Wright, in Texas, in tears, and Mr. Wright eventually reached an Army captain who said that he was under the impression Wright had dropped the charges because of insufficient evidence. Renteria had by this time returned from Iraq on leave, and Wright re-issued the warrant, but Renteria was allowed to return to Iraq without being arrested.
"I'm angry," said Maj. Nathan Bond, public affairs officer at Fort Riley, after The New York Times brought the case to the Army's attention. "This is not my Army. This is not how we handle domestic violence cases."
Apparently, however, that might be a trifle inaccurate, according to later statements he made. "Accusations of domestic violence are taken very seriously," he said. "In this case, there were communication difficulties." It's the military answer to every case where a victim complained and was ignored or harassed for complaining—or snitching. The whistle blower in Abu Ghraib was ridden out of town on a rail and now has to live under an assumed name, for example.

Finally, however, Maj. Bond declined to prosecute, refusing to discuss why, citing 'privacy'. Not sending Renteria to war was never an option, however, due to the need for soldiers. The inevitable conclusion, therefore, is that the military does not take wife beating seriously, no matter how many times how many high-ranking people say, "We take this very seriously."

Ms. Renteria obtained a divorce in October, along with an order of protection. She and her former husband have two young sons. SSGT. Renteria has attended no classes, received no therapy, suffered no consequences, and has gone through a second tour of duty, which—as long as he is needed—might very well function as a 'stay-away-from-jail-for-free' card.
"I feel that nobody is in my corner," Ms. Renteria said. "Because he wears a uniform, he is protected by everybody."
[Cross-posted. H/T to Shaker Lauren.]

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