Smart v. Stupid
Raped in the military, then raped by Congress
House Republicans pile on the betrayal of friendly fire rape
Anyone who has served in the military during the last decade has heard about a woman service member who was raped by another American. Military rape is far more common than anyone would like to admit. Writing in 2008, former Rep. Jane Harmon, D-Calif., opined that a serving woman was “more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”
According to the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, in 2011, 3,192 sexual assaults were reported, a comparable number to the year before. Of those, 490 were court-martialed, and just slightly more than 100 were discharged or jailed. That’s 3 percent (although you’ll have to work your way through some obfuscatory math to get to that number.)
But the same Pentagon office also estimates that friendly fire rape is vastly under reported. They estimate the real number of friendly fire rapes at around 19,000 every year – more than six times the reported number. Do the math and a service member-rapist is likely to be convicted in only one-half of 1 percent of estimated rapes. Only about one-quarter of 1 percent (.0025%) went to a military prison. The other quarter percent were simply separated from service, free to prey on civilian women. In fairness, leaders are now trying, but rape still mostly gets a free pass in the armed services.
Feeling sick yet?
Well stay near the bucket, because House Republicans are poised to again deny abortion services to military members who were raped and became pregnant. Even if they are raped by an enemy combatant, they can’t get emergency abortion services.
Of the three major groups living with post traumatic stress disorder, the biggest – by far – isn’t combat veterans. It is victims of sexual assault, especially those raped by someone they trusted. The other large group is victims of violent crime. For each group, the psychological damage likely lasts for the rest of their lives.
Now imagine what it is like to be a member of all three big trauma groups: combat vets, victim of a violent crime and victim of a sexual assault by a trusted person. That’s what happens when a soldier is raped – trauma’s unimaginably horrible triple-play.
Many relive their trauma frequently, requiring continuing treatment or medication in order to work, live and even sleep. They revisit the experience whenever common triggers occur. Some will relive the experience simply by reading this. Some are triggered by seeing a rape in a movie or hearing of one on the news. Some, sadly, are forced by enlistment contract to live near and work with their rapist, revisiting the rape experience every single day.
One way to reduce the intensity of this psychological wound is to ensure that the rape doesn’t result in the birth of a child. There is no more powerful trigger. There is also broad consensus among Americans – even anti-abortion Americans – that a woman who was raped shouldn’t be forced to have the child of her rapist.
So even the restrictive, anti-abortion Hyde Amendment provides for an exception in the case of rape. But only – it turns out – for civilians. A civilian government employee who is raped on a military base is provided abortion services if she is impregnated. Embassy employees get these services. Even congressional staffers get these emergency health services. Only service members are denied. And in many places they are stationed, there is no option to get a safe abortion off base.
Sen. Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., aims to fix the problem, with a defense authorization bill amendment that extends abortion services to service members who are raped, giving them parity with other federal employees.
"We have more than 200,000 women serving on active duty in our military," Shaheen told Mother Jones Magazine. "They should have the same rights to affordable reproductive health services as all of the civilians who they protect."
Republican Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins and Scott Brown are also on board. They are urging their House counterparts to get a clue.
Yet it is likely that House Republicans will fight to keep the amendment language out of the final defense authorization bill. An unnamed Republican House staffer told Army Times, “…social provisions that are not reflected in both bills heading into conference don’t survive.” A “social provision” he called it.
Can’t House Republicans manage to have the compassion to offer an abortion to someone who served honorably in time of war and was the victim of a friendly-fire rape? It’s the very definition of no-brainer.
To learn how to contact your U.S. representative, visit the House of Representatives website.
Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”