Rolling Stone published an article in the print version of their magazine called "Inside the military’s 'giant rape cult'” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, available online at Salon. The article's appearance on the web is credited to AlterNet, whose format loses me, but that's probably the original online version so here is their mention in fairness and accurate sourcing.
I hate to hear the military called a rape cult. I know many veterans must feel the same way about this incendiary term. Acknowledging that frustration, I'll also point out that the sadness of these assaults takes so much precedence over a perceived insult, any focus misdirected toward language will disappoint and disgust me. I will not spare another word of this blog post for angst over mean words.
This article is not about members of the military who feel involved because someone's called us a rape cult. We owe survivors of military sexual assault a conversation that addresses the needs of those who have come forward with their stories, those who have not, and how we can fix our culture.
The Rolling Stone article describes a powerful individual account, as well as a selection of horrifying statistics, but what struck a particular chord with me was the frank, accurate representation of the day-to-day effects of hierarchical customs. Until our conditioning is outlined in unrelenting terms, hung as a backdrop to sexual assault, military customs are hard to fault. Like the article says, weakness is unacceptable. To question our culture could only mean an inability to perform, a personal failing.
I wrote an early post for Unicorn in Uniform on the 5 Densest Dismissals of Sexual Harassment in the Military. Undesirable aspects of our culture shine through with a little introspection, experiences that seemed universal and inconsequential at the time. As I think back to rumors and observations I disregarded for lack of context, I wonder how culpable I was in the misery of how many others. Obviously it got very bad for some young women, so where were we? From the ranks of junior enlisted, their peers, to so-called mentors and supervisors, where exactly were we? Playing along in a culture of "strength?" Who the fuck were we kidding?
There is one positive note in this whole mess. From the article:
Ironically, I think in some ways the military could be better equipped to get a handle on rape because it is such a closed society. This could become an asset. It is an organization that regulates behavior, so maybe they can regulate this. If sexual assault is a priority, they could turn that around. And if they do get their house in order, civil society might learn from them how better to deal with rape.We're not hopeless, we actually have an advantage. Service members commit to prevailing attitudes; we absorb the ideology from the first moment our toes touch the yellow footprints. If we regulate sexual harassment and assault with half of the tenacity we used to cancel hazing traditions, we could rectify this disgrace and stop hurting our own.