Another glass ceiling shatters as Leon Panetta, with the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, orders that women now serve in our combat forces. It’s a long time coming. Women have already been performing valiantly in dangerous positions with the result that over 150 female troops have already died in Iraq and Afghanistan. For those woman making the military their careers, this long-awaited removal of an unwarranted gender-based barrier means enhanced job opportunities and promotions, as well as the recognition that the military’s women are ready, willing and able to fight alongside their male counterparts.
The Pentagon’s monumental step toward equality might also herald a new era of respect for our female troops. For a long time now, the military has been besieged with a growing number of sexual assault and sexual harassment charges, like the recent scandal at Lackland Air Force Base where instructors were sexually mistreating recruits. See, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/23/lackland-air-force-base_n_2535035.html. Drawing a connection between women’s inferior position in the military and their sexual mistreatment, Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned, “When … one part of the population … is designated as warriors and another … designated something else … that disparity begins to establish a psychology that in some cases led to an environment [that created the sexual mistreatment].” Sexual mistreatment has become so prevalent in the Air Force that General Mark Welsh, the Air Force’s top officer, has likened it to a “cancer”.
Mr. Panetta has taken bold action in the fight for women’s equality. But winning that battle means nothing if women lose the battle for human dignity. Whether her job is behind a desk or at the front lines, our military women must be respected and certainly not abused. It’s axiomatic that if she isn’t worried about her safety, then she’ll do a better job serving her country in any capacity she chooses.
As General Dempsey said “the more we threat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.” We can only hope.
Image courtesy of: http://crescentspeak.com/
WASHINGTON (March 26, 2010) A poster supporting the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program. (U.S. Navy photo illustration/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Do you know who Margaret Corbin was? She fought in the Revolutionary War beside her husband, firing a cannon in defense of Fort Washington overlooking the Hudson River in Manhattan. After her husband’s death in battle, Margaret continued to fight until she was wounded. The rest, as they say, is herstory. Woman have served in the military ever since.
When a woman joins the military in a time of war like Margaret did, she expects her life to be on the line for her country and for her fellow military personnel. She’s aware she may never again see her husband, child, parent or sibling. She’s courageous and selfless much like her male counterpart. She’ll risk her life notwithstanding that those in whose country she fights may wish she and our military presence would pack up and leave. It’s a perilous and thankless job.
What she doesn’t expect and certainly doesn’t deserve is to be victimized by her fellow comrades-in-arms while the brass and the government, for the most part, look the other way. As posted in the Huffington Post on December 27, 2012, one-quarter of all military women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan reported being sexually assaulted. That’s an outrageous statistic, but only part of the shameful story.
- A servicewoman was nearly 180 times more likely to be a victim of military sexual assault than to die while deployed during the last 11 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- An estimated 19,000 assaults occurred between October 1, 2010 – September 31, 2011; roughly 52 assaults per day.
- The conviction rate for sexual assaults in the military is slightly under 6%.
- In slightly less than half of the reported cases, the offender was of a higher rank than the victim.
See, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/06/military-sexual-assault-defense-department_n_1834196.html and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/27/military-sexual-assaults_n_2370099.html
The possibility of sexual assault was reason enough for our military men and members of Congress to prohibit gay men from serving for generations; notwithstanding, that gay men had been serving with distinction and without assaulting their fellow military men in any numbers even remotely close to the statistics cited above. Hetersexual military men were terrified of the sexual assault they now inflict in record numbers on military women. Ironic isn’t it?