Rape, An Occupational Hazard?

You probably read my headline on the this post and thought WTF?!?! That’s exactly the reaction I had after watching The Invisible War on PBS last night. The Invisible War is a documentary by Oscar and Emmy nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick about the culture of rape in the military.

The film chronicles the lives of several young servicewomen and one serviceman who were raped while on active duty in the military. The stories of their attacks (some were raped repeatedly over their time served at particular deployments) are heartwrenching enough, but the treatment they had to endure after coming forward about their attacks was tantamount to being rape all over again.

If I wasn’t enraged enough simply hearing the stories of these people, it was the last line in the film that really sent me over the edge:

On December 9, 2011, Judge Liam O’Grady dismissed a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates which was filed by 28 military members and veterans who said they were victims of sexual assault.

In his dismissal of the lawsuit, Judge O’Grady said that rape and sexual assault in the military are simply ‘incident to service’, in other words an occupational hazard.

The military has never been happy about having to accept women in their ranks, at least not women who sought to pursue jobs that caused them to work alongside or be in charge of men. When I was 19 years old I enlisted in the Air Force as a jet engine mechanic. I worked on B52 and KC135 engines. I was the first female jet engine mechanic to work in the Blytheville AFB jet shop. I was also the first female jet engine mechanic to work on their flight line. It was an experience that has helped shape my life. I am very proud of the time I spent serving my country. Fortunately, for the most part, the men I worked most closely with were respectful and accepting. However, there were some who felt threatened by the inclusion of women into historically all male career fields and they were not shy about voicing or demonstrating their disdain, once by “accidently” dumping jet fuel on my head.

I can’t help but think that these types of men are somehow threatened by the prospect of women being on equal footing with men. I would venture to say that this is the root of all gender discrimination. What a pity that so many men are so insecure within themselves that they must use brute force and domination to cover up a deep belief that they are inadequate when compared to women. My contention is that there should be no competition. This world, humanity itself needs both genders. What women bring to the table should not diminish what men bring to the table. There is no stronger or weaker sex; we are complementary to each other.

According to The Invisible War, the military’s answer to fixing this culture of rape is simply to teach women how to protect themselves. As usual, that is again placing the responsibility solely onto the victim. The answer is teaching men not to rape. Rape is NOT about sex. It is about power, control, and domination. The use of brute force, threats, intimidation, and power to humiliate and prey upon others.

What does this culture of male arrogance and domination say about the men whom we raise up as heros defending our country? That we look up to animals, people who prey on others? I don’t believe that is the image we as Americans really want to represent us.

Why should you be concerned about something that happens in the military? First, because although you may not know anyone in the military, they are people just like you and me and they are serving our country and protecting your rights. They deserve better. Second, not all of these sexual predators STAY in the military. Many of them serve their term and then leave, moving into neighborhoods just like yours.

You may ask “What can I do? I’m not in the military.”

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3 thoughts on “Rape, An Occupational Hazard?

  1. This is fantastic, i never thought you would write about those years

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless Phone

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