Rape Nation

From prisons to barracks and from Iraq to Tennessee, military sexual abuse is running rampant

| July 8, 2004


Dorothy Mackey's trust in her fellow servicemen was tragically misplaced. While an Air Force officer, she was sexually assaulted multiple times, and when she tried to report the assaults, her charges were ignored. Dorothy's experience is far from unique. 'When you are a new woman walking onto a military base, you are like a deer and it's deer hunting season, but you don't know it,' she relates. Her harrowing experience has led her to form Survivors Take Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel (STAAMP), a group that demands justice for victims of such abuse and seeks to reform existing institutions that allow this abuse to go unpunished.

Sexual assault is a serious problem in the military. Surveys indicate that 78 percent of military women have experienced sexual harassment, with up to 50 percent experiencing sexual assault. The military has no coherent method of dealing with such assaults, and the existing mechanisms are shockingly flawed. The McDowell checklist, which is used to determine whether rape reports are valid, is so biased that it is virtually impossible for a rape victim to pass. The test's creator, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charles McDowell, once said that women who make rape allegations fall into three categories: 'narcissists, socio-paths and immature, impulsive, inadequate, types.'

Unfortunately, the rampant sexual assault of servicewomen is symptomatic of a larger culture of rape in the military. Global Women's Strike alleges that the inquiry into Iraqi prison abuse has revealed evidence of gang rapes and other abuses of women detainees. Moreover, the recent Abu Ghraib scandal provides a reminder that men, enlisted or imprisoned, can also be victims of military sexual abuse. The STAAMP Out Rape campaign seeks to address this overarching problem by making sure that charges of rape are taken seriously and that the Veterans Administration provides for rape victims. The STAAMP Out Rape campaign could not come at a better time. As a male veteran and victim of military sexual abuse relates, 'Soldiers are trained to take whatever they want, whether from fellow servicemen or Iraqi detainees, and they know they will be protected.'
-- Brendan Themes

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Mic Hunter
11/10/2008 11:33:37 PM

Those who are interested in learning more about Dorothy's experiences can read her first-person account in "Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America's Military." She writes not only about the abuse but also how she brought suit against her abusers all the way to the US Supreme Court.