By ARI EZRA WALDMAN
The United States military has a rape problem, and it's nothing new.
Earlier this week, two women -- Rebekah Havrilla and BriGette McCoy -- appeared before a Senate subcommittee chaired by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to recount their experiences of being raped and sexually harassed during their time in the military. They were joined by one man, Brian Lewis, who testified that he was raped by a senior officer in the Air Force while serving on the island of Guam. It was the first time a male victim appeared before Congress to discuss his sexual assault.
Their heartbreaking stories of abuse and command inaction are bad enough on their own; in the context of a military in which rape, sexual assault, and harassment are more common than morning coffee, they are downright enraging. According to the military's own report, the number of service members anonymously reporting a sexual assault jumped more than 30% in the past two years. In 2012, more than 26,000 troops reported experiencing "unwanted sexual contact," a significant jump from the 19,300 who reported such victimization in 2010. What's more, 10,700 of the 19,300 victims in 2010 were men. And that covers only those incidents reported to authorities; men are far less likely to report being victims of sexual assault, especially in a macho, testosterone-filled environment like the military. The real numbers are probably shockingly high.
P erhaps as high -- if not higher -- as they were in 1991, when 83 women and 7 men were assaulted during the Tailhook convention in Las Vegas in September 1991. Even that scandal, which was supposed to change the military forever, did not result in a single prosecution. The bankruptcy of the military justice system came back into the news recently when an Air Force general tossed out the conviction of an officer after the officer had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a woman.
This unique and dangerous facet of the military criminal justice system -- the near boundless discretion given to the so-called "convening authority" to sign off on, reject, or modify the sentence of a general court-martial -- is complicit in the growing epidemic of sexual crimes in the military today. But it is not alone.
Let's discuss the elements of military law that are contributing to this problem,
AFTER THE JUMP...