“These are future leaders in the Army, the same officers the enlisted are supposed to report violent crimes to.” ~JSN
If you haven’t kept up with the fight in Congress regarding how the military should best handle sexual assault complaints and retaliation, this article will help you understand. Claire McCaskill wants sexual assault victims in the military to continue reporting violent crimes to their Officer in Charge, the Commander. Kirsten Gillibrand wants survivors to be able to report violent crimes to a military prosecutor. And most victims, including myself, don’t want to report the crime to anyone in the military especially the Chain of Command. I would prefer that my boss not know anything about the incident for fear of it impacting my military career. But, in some cases you don’t have a choice if the perpetrator IS your boss or someone in your work place.
When I first read the headline ‘Annual Pillow Fight at West Point Injures 30 Cadets‘ I thought it was another one of Duffel Blog‘s satirical, witty headlines. I had to do a double take, but sure enough it was legit and had made national news to boot. My first response was “these are future leaders in the Army, the same officers the enlisted are supposed to report violent crimes to.” It piggy backed on the feelings I had when I researched the US Air Force Academy’s sexual assault scandal (2003). I do not understand why Congress continues to advance laws that require sexual assault victim’s report violent crimes to a Commanding officer or even a military prosecutor when we witness them engaging in the same deviant behavior. Military officers have been accused of the same crimes as the enlisted soldiers yet appear to be held to different standards.
As a survivor of military sexual assault perpetrated by a supervisor in my Chain of Command, I can understand the argument that military commanders need to be involved in the process to some capacity. They have to be involved in order to facilitate an expedited transfer and/or coordinate victim services for you if there is no sexual assault coordinator readily available. We are dependent on those same military commanders not only in exercises and operations in the states but also overseas in foreign territory. We don’t deploy with sexual assault coordinators and military prosecutors.
Realistically, this is how it is going to go. If you are raped on base, you have to report to military leadership. If you are raped off base, no one can stop you from going to the local police but if the perpetrator is another military member and you need to flea for safety, you will still need to confide in your military commander. If you are stationed overseas or in a deployed environment, you are more dependent then ever on your military commander because you have no where else to turn. You abide by military law in foreign countries. If you report a violent crime to your Commander and they minimize the traumatic experience in any way, it can be devastating to morale.
We need to know that we can trust our fellow soldiers and the leaders in our Chain of Command. Nothing erodes trust quicker then someone minimizing a felony crime, abusing their power, or not being held accountable. Experiencing this kind of betrayal by a leader in a life or death kind of job like the military creates an overwhelming feeling of abandonment. You begin to question everything including “What happened to leave no man behind.” Whether its getting shot at by the enemy or getting raped by your comrade they are both violent acts that have lasting impacts on us. We need to know that our Commanders are going to have our backs and are not ‘violent’ in nature and/or perpetrating sexual assault themselves.
The violent behavior exhibited in the West Point Pillow Fights quite frankly scares the shit out of me. My first thoughts as an enlisted soldier included, “If these guys engage in violent acts of this nature, then what is he going to say to me when I tell him that I have been raped.” Is he going to minimize it because I need to toughen up? Is he going to consider me vulnerable prey? Is he going to take this seriously and protect me from further abuse? All of these questions are not something you should have to consider when deciding whether or not to report a sexual assault.
I don’t have the answers to solve this issue but I do empathize with our military members who may find themselves in this lonely predicament. We need violent crime policy that addresses all facets of the problem holistically because not every situation is the same. The one constant factor is that we utterly depend on our military officers for our health and safety. And it looks like we need to have a back up plan when they fail to uphold their end of the bargain.
West Point Cadets Hurt in Violent Pillow Fight
West Point superintendent outlines pillow-fight fallout
Navy senior’s video jab at West Point pillow fight taken down
West Point cadets ‘chose to hurt people’ during bloody pillow fight