Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Sexual violence; victim-blaming.]

Yes, it remains a real fucking mystery why the US military has what is euphemistically referred to as a rape problem:
An Air Force brochure on sexual assault advises potential victims not to fight off their attackers.

"It may be advisable to submit [rather] than resist," reads the brochure (.pdf), issued to airmen at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where nearly 10,000 military and civilian personnel are assigned. "You have to make this decision based on circumstances. Be especially careful if the attacker has a weapon."

The brochure, acquired by Danger Room, issues a series of guidances on "risk reduction" for sexual assault. Among others, it advises people under sexual attack in parking lots to "consider rolling underneath a nearby auto and scream loud. It is difficult to force anyone out from under a car." A public affairs officer at Shaw, Sgt. Alexandria Mosness, says she believes the brochure is current.

While the brochure also explains that sexual assault is not always committed by people who "don't look like a rapist" — attackers "tend to have hyper-masculine attitudes," it advises — it does not offer instruction to servicemembers on not committing sexual assault. Prevention is treated as the responsibility of potential victims.

"Rapists look for vulnerability and then exploit it in those who: are young (naive); are new to the base, deployment, area, etc.; are emotionally unstable," the brochure (.pdf) continues.
Contemptible, victim-blaming horseshit. The implication that victims of sexual violence should have been able to "spot" a rapist is both ethically reprehensible and factually wrong. Further, providing information about what "rapists look for" serves absolutely no purpose other than to admonish potential victims that they should not be those things and to shame survivors for having been those things, as if someone has control over being "young" or "new to the base."

And given that servicemembers, especially female servicemembers, of all ages and statuses (and emotional states, for fuck's sake) can be and have been victims of sexual violence, it's a victim-blaming strategy masked as "rape prevention" that doesn't even have any basis in reality. Or, to put it more charitably, ahem, is not "advice" with universal application, rendering it utterly pointless—aside from redirecting accountability for rape away from rapists and onto victims, of course.

If only that were the worst of it.
The brochure is "an affront to victims," [Brian Purchia, spokesperson for Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group that raises awareness of sexual assault within the military] told Danger Room. "The Air Force should be passing out pamphlets to our men and women in uniform on how not to commit sexual assault..."

The military does some of that — not without controversy. An artistic group called "Sex Signals" has performed for airmen to teach scenarios about sexual assault in what an official Air Force release called "a 'lively and humorous' way." (The group's founder, Gail Stern, says the effort "utilizes the strategic and intentional use of humor to reduce the emotional and cognitive resistance audiences have to the subject of rape.") The Army has a video game designed to instruct soldiers about the dangers of "alcohol-induced date rape." The military has also come under criticism for a poster advising servicemembers to "Ask When She's Sober," which the New York Times blasted as a "grotesque parody of an etiquette poster."

...Purchia continued: "Fundamental reforms are needed — the reporting, investigation and adjudication of sexual assault must be taken out of the chain of command."

That's a step that the military has been reluctant to take. At today's hearing, [Gen. Mark Welsh III, the Air Force's chief of staff] and [outgoing Air Force Secretary Michael Donley] expressed concern that doing so might pose a risk to "good order and discipline," as Donley put it. ("This is not good order and discipline," replied Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand of New York.)
If you gave an order that Santiago wasn't to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago be in danger?

Welsh and Donley can't have it both ways. Either the US military is communicating that sexual violence is absolutely unacceptable and servicemembers are ignoring that order, or the US military is failing to communicate that sexual violence is absolutely unacceptable. If servicemembers are ignoring orders, "good order and discipline" are already compromised. If the chain of command is failing to issue unequivocal orders about sexual violence, they aren't fit to retain oversight of reporting, investigation, and adjudication of crimes they don't take seriously.

Either way, it's time to get serious about sexual violence. Because one thing that rapists really do look for? Organizations that abet rape.

[H/T to Jordan.]

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