Military Structure Treats Women as Disposable, Harms Victims Following Rape

One memory from high school that remains vivid is the day a math teacher recounted her life’s “greatest shame.” While in her second year at West Point, she pretended to be asleep while a male cadet invaded their room and raped her roommate. She feared both being attacked herself and retaliation for supporting the victim. She finished her second year and transferred to William and Mary, and kept her mouth shut. For fear and shame, she never got an officer’s commission or served in the military. And despite the fact that this happened decades ago, we haven’t made real progress; this story could be brand new.

CNN has wonderful coverage by David S. Martin exposing systemic dismissal, retribution and financial harm done to victims of rape throughout the armed forces despite greater lipservice at the top. Martin makes it crystal clear that because of entrenched sexism and rape apologism in the chain of command, survivors are victimized when raped, victimized again with bogus diagnosis and dismissal, then victimized once again when they are denied medical care parity and penalized academically and financially all due to vindictive psychological diagnosis. That these diagnoses are often labeled pre-existing means inability to get proper PTSD treatment from normal veterans’ services. I recommend reading the entire article; anger and outrage help keep these cases from disgraceful inaction.

The requirement that rape and assault victims follow chain of command when reporting attacks means there is no appeal or defense allowed. Commanders can accuse victims of lying to their faces and tear up the paperwork. There is no military police internal affairs to tip off when a commander does this. Just receipt of personality or adjustment disorders diagnosis that spells the end of service, enlistment bonuses and rights to GI bill benefits.

There is some hope when we as a country refuse to feign sleep, refuse to allow this outrage to pass unnoticed. Some are challenging the structural procedures that forces victims to see non-reporting as the better option. We need to keep forcing this out in the open until we get some justice. It won’t make these victims whole again, but we won’t be treating female servicemembers as disposable anymore.

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