“Sexual assault is alarmingly common in the U.S. military, and more than half of the victims are men. According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day.” While many are not entirely surprised to learn that problems exist within the ranks, most, I imagine, are shocked to learn of the extent and dynamics of the abuses. First, in terms of the extent, it is disturbing, at best, to realize that when a man enters the military he is ten times more likely to be sexually abused than if he had not joined. This fact alone challenges anyone who would propose that the greater percentage of males being raped is merely an artifact of the higher number of males in the military. Second, with respect to the dynamics, the analysis is a bit more complex, as various factors, sexual, aggressive and manipulative, seem to be at play.
Reports And Policies
A GQ exposé explicitly and graphically relates shameful acts occurring in a closed institution that is predicated on loyalty, and which a generation ago was unabashedly identified with bold masculinity. The milieu of silence is still present to a large degree, as it is estimated that over 80% of assaults go unreported. But the dynamics of the silence have seemingly shifted. Those persons interviewed by GQ, an admittedly small sample, span several decades of service, including years prior to 2011 when male-on-male rape victims could actually be discharged for having been engaged by another in homosexual conduct. While victims felt helpless to report the violence as an unfortunate side-effect of the military’s historic prohibition of sodomy in years past, one wonders about the side-effects of the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy three years ago.
The GQ piece focuses on a reality about rape that is important to understand—it is less a sexual act than an aggressive act. Quoting a psychologist with the VA hospital: “It’s not about the sex. It’s about power and control.” The unique features of military culture, encouraging both aggression and obedience, are thought to create an environment where new recruits, who cannot question authority, are likely to fall prey to what is called “a certain kind of officer.” The hypothesis is put forth that the perpetrators of military sexual assault “by and large” do not identify as gay, though research in support of this is not provided. An alternative view is offered by author Bryan Fischer, who contends that our military has become a “playground for sexual predators,” and, as such, “recruitment, retention, readiness and morale” will suffer greatly, as will national security. In other words, “a certain kind of officer” (or enlisted superior or peer, for that matter) is more likely to join the military since the repeal of DADT: one who is bold and proud of his homosexual identity.
The Bigger Picture
While the personal tragedy of the victims of military sexual assault cannot not be underestimated (the GQ review states “men develop PTSD from sexual assault at nearly twice the rate they do from combat”), from a broader cultural perspective, there are other tragedies as well. First, the idea that repealing DADT makes the country and military stronger seems to be well down the path of becoming folklore. The extreme levels of predatory behavior, which show a three-year trend of increases, belies the myth. Our commanders have far more important issues to resolve than making judgments about what was or was not consensual behavior among their troops. Second, the repealing of DADT seems to be another example of the misguided rush of our culture to embrace all things homosexual. Similar to the enthusiasm currently present for so-called same-sex marriage and homosexual partners’ adoption of children, there is a lack of appreciation of the ramifications and unintended long-term consequences of such policies. Finally, the personal and social cost of the homosexual lifestyle is hardly one that any rational policy would embrace.
The defense of the country and the health of society requires an appreciation of that which best promotes human flourishing – dedicated soldiers focused on their admirable vocation of serving the country in defense of the peoples and values upon which it was founded.