Another US Military Sexual Assault Prevention Chief Under Investigation for Sexual Assault

[Content Note: Sexual violence.]

So far this month: An Air Force sexual assault prevention chief was charged with a sexual assault; an Air Force brochure on sexual assault was found to engage in victim-blaming and advise potential victims to submit to attackers; and the Air Force's top commander blamed "the hookup mentality" for the US military's pervasive rape problem.

And now: Fort Hood's sexual assault prevention chief has been relieved of his duties and "is being investigated for abusive sexual contact, pandering, assault and maltreatment of subordinates."
The soldier is being investigated for, among other things, forcing a subordinate into prostitution and sexually assaulting two others, according to a Capitol Hill staffer who was briefed on the case and spoke about it on condition of anonymity.

Two senior Pentagon officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is under investigation, also confirmed that the sergeant is being investigated for running a prostitution ring.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is done talking about this garbage, and she's taking action "to get to work reforming the military justice system that clearly isn't working. I believe strongly that to create the kind of real reform that will make a difference we must remove the chain of command from the decision making process for these types of serious offenses." Gillibrand will be introducing legislation Thursday "that seeks to accomplish precisely that goal: transferring sex crimes from the watch and authority of military brass and instead funneling such cases to independent military prosecutors, said a spokesman for Gillibrand."

Removing the chain of command from the process is a necessary (and long overdue) step, because the military cannot, and/or is unwilling to take the required steps to, effectively address its ongoing crisis of sexual violence—including the most basic acknowledgment that many attackers are part of survivors' chain of command.

There is also the bigger cultural challenge within the military, which I'm not certain Gillibrand's legislation can or will address, of the same nature as the bad math of "Christian axiomatically = good," which acts in service to predators who eagerly wear the cloak of presumed goodness conferred by Christian privilege. The US military is fetishized as monolithically noble, brave, honorable, and good—and of course many individual members of the US military are those things. But lots of them aren't. Some of them are rapists.

One is virtually deemed traitorous at the mere suggestion that a member of the US military (especially a straight white male member of the US military) is anything less than a paragon of moral virtue. They are warriors, they are heroes, they are patriots, they are the good guys who take on the evil-doers.

That collective reputation is fiercely protected. But its fierce protection abets abuse.

Communities in which members are presumed to be above reproach attract abusers who cynically and deliberately exploit the reflexive presumption of moral virtue their membership affords them. Abusers count on the merest suggestion that they are anything but unassailably upstanding being mischaracterized as a hostile attack on the entire community. They count on the community closing ranks around all but the occasional bad apple they cannot justifiably defend.

The setting apart of the military as inherently honorable is antithetical to effective rape prevention. It discourages self-reflection—what need is there to examine one's own ethics if one has already been declared honorable by one's entire country?—and it attracts predators who know they can operate with immunity under the presumption of honor, and it exhorts gatekeepers to ignore evidence which subverts the idea of inherent honor. Which is why, in sexual assault cases, the chain of command routinely chooses silencing victims in defense of the narrative instead of holding their attackers accountable.

There's too much at stake for men invested in a narrative that confers upon them them an unearned reputation of honor for them to be gatekeepers in cases that are the most immediate evidence that narrative is bullshit. They have a vested interest in maintaining it, at victims' expense.

Pulling sexual assault cases out of the chain of command is an important and critical reform. But it is only a start. Truly getting to the root of the military's rape crisis will require giving up some things I'm not sure the military will ever be willing to let go.

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