Archive for Monday, May 27, 2013


Double Take: Young woman should wait to enlist

May 27, 2013


Dear Dr. Wes and Katie: I read your contest column on joining the military and I have a different perspective. I’m 18 and female, and I’d like to join either the Marines or the Navy. My parents are also concerned about my safety, but not from combat. They’re afraid I’ll be raped by guys from my own side. I looked this up to try and reassure them, and now I’m scared for the same reason. I want to serve!

Katie: Wes emailed me your letter just days before the media erupted with two disheartening stories on sexual misconduct in the armed forces.

The first was disturbingly ironic. Two separate military officers responsible for sexual assault prevention were themselves cited in the last two weeks for alleged sexual misconduct.

The second is more pertinent as you weigh the honor and risk of serving our nation.

The Pentagon recently released a study on this topic, and the results are discouraging. The last fiscal year saw more instances of sexual assault than in 2010. Some 3,374 incidents were reported and an estimated 26,000 went unreported. Only 238 of reported incidents led to convictions.

The one hope we might take from these stories is that they’re too outrageous to be ignored. The president and the secretary of defense have both demanded action, and Congress is considering bills to change the way justice is implemented in the military’s sexual assault cases.

It’s likely that the DOD will be forced to revamp its inadequate response system. Yet even if that process begins immediately (and, unfortunately, it won’t), there may be little meaningful change in the problem by the time you enlist.

For every perpetrator in the Pentagon’s study, there are thousands of admirable men and women who serve. It is a disgrace to these heroes that the armed forces are marred by such unforgivable acts of sexual violation.

Nevertheless, given the current situation, no one would think less of you for waiting to enlist until the military gets its act together.

Dr. Wes: Responding to this on Memorial Day feels a little awkward, but your desire to enlist really does honor the countless men and women who’ve served throughout our history. You should not be deprived of this by callous acts of sexual misconduct. But the risk you cite is real and it adds an additional layer of concern for your parents and for you.

In 2011, I attended a workshop on “dream rescripting” at the American Psychological Association convention in Washington, D.C. This technique, used with people who’ve had traumatic stress incidents, helps them talk through frightening, repetitive dreams, then rewrite them as they wish they’d come out. Not surprisingly, the best technology for this comes from the true experts in PTSD, psychologists at the Veterans Administration.

In class, the VA teachers provided examples of dreams from young people who’d witnessed combat and injury — friends being blown up by IEDs, violence against civilians and the terror of their own acts against the enemy — vividly replayed each night on their minds’ movie screens.

The most compelling story of all, however, was a young woman’s nightmare of being gang-raped by members of her own unit in a tent in the Iraqi desert. Anyone who’s been in the military knows that these aren’t just your buddies during deployment, they’re your lifeline — the people you depend on to have your back. Instead, these men committed a horrific act of violence against a young comrade, who, like you, only wanted to serve.

I am a staunch proponent of men and women serving together. But I expect our elite, professional military to be a disciplined, well-run machine. The primary risk of service should come from external enemies, not from those within.

While I have a degree in history and know how wrong things can go in these situations, as Americans we expect our children will be, to the extent possible, protected from sexual assault while serving. Anything less is intolerable.

You have a right to apply for enlistment and gain all you can from the experience, while offering our country as much in return.

We will as a nation thank you profusely for your service. But, given the current situation, I must side with your parents and advise against joining up until the Department of Defense has implemented reforms to adjudicate and severely punish sex offenders within its ranks.


50YearResident 4 years, 9 months ago

Young women in the military have a double jeopardy of sexual assault. The sexual assault can come from the other women in their unit as well as from the men. With today's legalization of gays in the military sexual assaults have greatly increased. That is something to consider before enlisting.

50YearResident 4 years, 9 months ago

It's hard to document because most of these types of assaults fall into the estimated unreported 26,000. You can't read those in the news. Quote from this story: "The Pentagon recently released a study on this topic, and the results are discouraging. The last fiscal year saw more instances of sexual assault than in 2010. Some 3,374 incidents were reported and an estimated 26,000 went unreported. Only 238 of reported incidents led to convictions".

parrothead8 4 years, 9 months ago

It's always been legal to be gay in the military. It's just that now it is also legal to not have to hide it from everyone around you.

50YearResident 4 years, 9 months ago

Wrong! Evidently you have never been in the military. It has always been Military Policy to discharge anyone found to be a homosexual up until very recently. "Don't ask, don't tell" was a way around being discharged. They allowed you to stay in the service if you didn't tell anyone you were gay.

50YearResident 4 years, 9 months ago

Can you document your claim or is it also hearsay?

"claims they are all or mostly homosexual is false"

50YearResident 4 years, 9 months ago

You made the claim that "mostly homosexual" was "false". You did make that claim in the above post.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 9 months ago

These are women being raped by men, I think that was made clear in the article. There is a history of male soldiers from all countries and all faiths believing that rape is their privilege as a soldier.

However, now it is made worse by the fact their it is not the women of the enemy who are being raped, which would still be horrendous and wrong, but members of their own units. Why would you attack and rape a comrade in arms?

I would have to tell this young woman to stay away from the military even though I believe that women should be able to serve equally in every branch.

50YearResident 4 years, 9 months ago

Not true in the United States. Rape is not a privilege of our Armed Forces and nobody thinks it is.

parrothead8 4 years, 9 months ago

Wrong. It IS true that "there is a history of male soldiers from all countries and all faiths believing that rape is their privilege as a soldier."

Frankie8 didn't say it was a rule, just that "there is a history." THAT is true, even of American soldiers, at times.

Liberty275 4 years, 9 months ago

"now I’m scared for the same reason."

There's your answer. If you are scared, and that makes you unsure of your decision-making ability, don't do it. It would be a disservice to yourself and also the people that have to trust you to act appropriately under harsh conditions.

Don't get me wrong. Women belong in combat zones the same as men. OTOH, if you make important decisions based on emotions like fear and hate, you need to stay home regardless of your gender.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago


Women shouldn't be able to join the army without the very realistic and reasonable fear they'll be raped by fellow soldiers?

The solution isn't for her to "stay home" - it's for the military to make sure that soldiers aren't getting raped.

jack22 4 years, 9 months ago

It's appalling the rate at which our female soldiers are being assaulted by their fellow soldiers. It's a real shame that women feel they shouldn't join the armed services for fear of being raped. We need to prosecute these rapists to the full extent of the law and try and do all we can to rid our army of these criminals and abusers.

Unfortunately this problem will be a difficult one to tackle. I like that our army is integrated with men and women serving side by side, but wonder if maybe a segregated male and female combat division might be a temporary solution to this problem?

I'm reminded of Maria Bochkareva, who unable to join her male counterparts in fighting against the Germans in the first World War, decided to form her own brigade. They were known as the Women's Battalion of Death. Now those were some sisters you wouldn't want to mess with. Could something similar, ie., an all female division, be an answer to the crisis we now face within our own military?

notaubermime 4 years, 9 months ago

Sexual assault and harassment is so prevalent in the military because a) the people in charge do not honestly wish to change a climate that they are a part of and b) the military attracts the type of men who engage in such behavior. Rooting this type of behavior out of the military is going to be a long and difficult process (if it succeeds at all).

What the woman in the article should be asking herself is whether she wants to be a part of that battle. If that isn't the type of battle she wants to fight, she should consider other ways to serve, or other groups that seek to make the world a better place.

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