Kuntz: Eliminate sexual assault in military

BY KATIE KUNTZ | AUGUST 31, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Pentagon estimates that nearly 19,000 women were victims of sexual assault in the armed forces last year. Despite there being just over 3,000 reported cases, military officials know that the issue of sexual assault is far worse than only those reports.

This week, a film that documents the severity of sexual assault in the military, The Invisible War, has attracted many patrons to the Bijou, and it is gaining popularity nationwide. 

The film includes data and testimonials demonstrating the severity of sexual assaults in the military, including that one-in-five women in the military will be victims.  Although it does not include the many instances of same-sex sexual assault, the filmmakers told The Daily Iowan in an interview that it is a large problem, too.

No one denies that sexual assault is of serious concern. However, many disagree on how to react. The military and society at large have difficulty deciding how to stop it — and worse yet, deciding who is at fault.

Too often after a display of these sorts of statistics there is a call for action, and also the cry for removing women from the military, because they say it’s far too risky.

Of course, the military is risky, but that is because our nation is involved in wars, not because sexual assault is an accepted part of American life. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is has become. Last February, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta read similar statistics on air and asked, “What did [the military] expect?”

Her comments are not out of the ordinary. Anyone on social media can see similar ideas, and yet shutting women out of the military would in no way stop sexual assault; it can happen to all people, whether or not they are in uniform.

According to the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, there were 236 aggravated sexual assaults in the Iowa City community in 2011. But that does not mean women should stop attending college — and women certainly do not need to leave the military.

Instead, the military needs to increase psychiatric care for all our men and women in uniform, and we must have complete intolerance for sexual assault in all aspects of life.

According to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office of the Department of Defense, only about 64 percent of those convicted of sexual assault were discharged from the military, meaning that about one-third of all perpetrators remain in the military even after a conviction.

It seems only reasonable that victims would fear reporting an assault. In the civilian world, both male and female victims fear the close scrutiny of their personal lives and sexuality; in the military, many victims have found themselves discharged, in some cases because of a “personality disorder,” as reported by CNN.

This system does not support victims and it does not punish perpetrators. It does not encourage any form of mental or sexual health, and these problems are reflected throughout society.

The idea that men serving in our military are just as likely to attack as a wild dog only shows that sexual assault is tolerated, and it therefore cannot be eliminated.

As a woman, I refuse to be considered an object, and I hope that my male friends will refuse to be considered wild animals. Men and women are all humans. There is no room for excusing unacceptable behaviors as something like boys will be boys and girls will be victims.

The military must do all in its power to support all our soldiers, regardless of anything but their loyalty to our nation. The rest of us not wearing uniforms must support our troops — which means marginalizing sexual assault, not excusing it.

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