Today in Rape Culture

[Trigger warning for sexual violence.]

Newsweek has published a significant piece on the issue of military men raping other men in the ranks. It's a very good piece, and I encourage you to read the whole thing, as I'm just going to excerpt three passages here.

Excerpt One:
Less than two weeks after arriving on base, [Greg Jeloudov, who had joined the US military shortly after immigrating from Russia] was gang-raped in the barracks by men who said they were showing him who was in charge of the United States. When he reported the attack to unit commanders, he says they told him, "It must have been your fault. You must have provoked them."
During the attack, his fellow soldiers reportedly referred "to his Russian accent and New York City address," suggesting not only that there is a culture of victim-blaming and hostility toward survivors, but a culture of Othering soldiers who aren't from acceptably conservative parts of this country, no less other nations.

It is particularly galling that a New York City address would be contemptuously cited by soldiers as evidence of "champagne socialism" and the city itself virtually regarded as another country, even as the attack on New York City is routinely called an "attack on America" and used to justify military interventions.

And, make no mistake: Othering is a tool of the rape culture.

Excerpt Two:
Women in the armed forces are now more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat.
Blink. Blink.

(And, no, it is not because women aren't allowed to serve on the front lines, because, irrespective of the rules, they are serving on the front lines.)

Excerpt Three:
While many might assume the perpetrators of such assaults are closeted gay soldiers, military experts and outside researchers say assailants usually [identify as] heterosexual. Like in prisons and other predominantly male environments, male-on-male assault in the military, experts say, is motivated not by [sexuality], but power, intimidation, and domination. Assault victims, both male and female, are typically young and low-ranking; they are targeted for their vulnerability. Often, in male-on-male cases, assailants go after those they assume are gay, even if they are not.
There are two issues to tease out here: The first is that a lot of male-male rape in the military is what's known as "corrective" or "punitive" rape, and that's a very difficult thing to combat in institutions with rigid hierarchies. But one thing that actually will help is the repeal of DADT and the associated alleviation of the stigma against gay soldiers. That won't happen overnight, but it will reduce the rate of corrective/punitive rape in the long term.

The second issue is extortive rape, in which sexual violence is committed by someone with a higher rank (or similar influence), either by force or coercion. Much of the corrective/punitive rape that goes on might also be extortive, but there will also be a separate category of incidents in which a "young and low-ranking" servicemember is raped by a superior simply because the superior knows zie can get away with it, via intimidation or by being the gatekeeper through which reports of sexual violence are processed. And that is also a very difficult thing to prevent in an institution like the military.

The military must first be willing to take allegations seriously, and, beyond that, be willing to establish a victims' advocate that exists outside the normal chain of command. That is, unfortunately, something to which the Pentagon has been incredibly resistant—quite possibly because the brass is well aware how many valuable assets they'd lose if they were forced to be accountable for sexual violence.

In its current state, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office mentioned in the article is, I will say simply, insufficient.

[Previously on sexual violence in the US military: Number of the Day, Yikes, Army Gets Tough on Pregnancy, Congress Must Investigate Crimes Against Female Soldiers, ABC News on Military Sexual Assaults, Another KBR Rape, "Where Has Everybody Been?", New VA Center for Victims of Sexual Assault, Survey Says: The Citadel's Got a Sexual Assault Problem, Recruiting Victims, Pentagon Says No to Office of Victims' Advocate, Pentagon Decides to Take "No Action" on Sexual Assaults at Air Force Academy, Women in the War Zone.]

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