Saturday, February 18, 2012

What did they expect?

A friend pointed me to an article wanting my take on Liz Trotta's remarks concerning sexual assault in the military.







Normally I don't dip my toes into the black, miry pools of politics or political correctness. Everyone has opinions on the effects of mixed gender working environments as pertains to the military, which is exactly what they are: opinions. There were a couple of remarks made though that I thought went against some fundamental military leadership truths. Truths which can't be debated no matter your personal opinions on women in the military or the conduct of military members.

First let's address Liz's question: "Now, what did they expect?"

As for me, I expect Marines to conduct themselves in a manner which reflects the values under which we claim to operate. I expect them to rise to a standard of behavior far exceeding that of thugs and rapists. I expect Marines to take action and intervene in the event they see or know of such criminal acts taking place.  I expect them to know right from wrong. You may recall my discussion with Dr. Berkowitz on sexual assault this summer and his response.

I don't expect proximity to be used as a reason why service members are assaulted. If that's the case then society can't have integrated anything. It's almost as if she is suggesting service members spend their days dragging their knuckles along the ground humping the air like dogs because we are too feral to know any better. Does Liz consider us mere brutes? I don't appreciate the insinuation however she meant it.

It's bad enough the media delights in portraying the military as mentally disturbed sociopaths itching to indulge in a multi-state killing spree at the slightest provocation. Nice to know I can add leg humping to the list of psychological issues I must have since I'm a veteran.  

"You have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much."

 I certainly am on board with enduring less bureaucracy and have developed a distaste for so called "experts" securing their little cottage industries within the military. All I can really think to say to this: how much rape is enough?

She goes on to say she thought the mission of the military is "to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war." This flies directly in the face of every leadership principle I was ever taught. It's like saying hospitals treat patients not doctors. Since when do we not protect one another? The most often quoted leadership principle in the Marine Corps is: Know your Marines and look out for their welfare. Though the primary goal of leadership is mission accomplishment the second is troop welfare. Seems pretty high up on the list to me.

I tend to view sexual assault as a societal issue vice a purely military one. As a nation we raise generations of young people through our media to be obsessed with sex then are shocked when there is sexual assault. I question the numbers as to sexual assault being up 64%. That doesn't mean it's not happening but it hasn't happened within my sphere of influence. What the military does right is have avenues for victims to report it. Maybe that's the reason. As far as it being endemic to the military only I don't buy it. I'll bet college campuses have more unreported sexual assaults than the military does.

But don't take my word for it. I expect to take some flak as a misogynistic troll for even having an opinion on the matter. To make sure I wasn't way off the mark I showed the article to a few lady leathernecks I know. I wanted to see what they had to say about this. For the record, I had already written out most of my thoughts on the matter before I asked any of my fellow Marines for theirs. To a woman, they all have their hate on for Liz. I'll let them tell it like they see it in their own words:

"As a civilian I was victim to such an unfortunate event. As a female service member, I have never felt safer around men than I do now. I believe there are more rape victims in high schools and colleges, not on the front lines."

I about laughed out loud when I read this. She and I had not discussed my thoughts on the issue so I'll chalk up the similarity of our remarks to our shared outlook as Marines.

"I've felt way more vulnerable in certain situations as a civilian than I ever did in the military."

"In the Marine Corps, as a female, I have never personally experienced or known anyone that have been victims of rape or sexual assault. The majority of the times I have heard of it happening have been in the [other services]."

Is it me, or is there a trend here? Keep in mind our perspective is mostly limited to our Marine Corps experience.

"I never feared the Marines I worked with. The idea of ever being sexually assaulted in the military only arose during safety stand downs when the ABC's of sexual assault were burned into our brain housing groups. I only met one person while I was on active duty who was a victim of sexual assault. And it was a male. I met him in the hospital at Balboa where he went for treatment after being gang-raped by his fellow shipmates. Five of them, if I remember correctly. So I know it happens. It's just hard for me to believe the numbers as reported in that clip. And I was often the only female in the units I was assigned to."

All the female Marines I approached with this were also quick to remind me men get sexually assaulted too. It's not as common, but men are not immune simply because of their gender.

"There was this one time, in Iraq, when the corpsman who rode in my truck grabbed my ass after a convoy. I was stunned. But I wound my fist back and towered over him, all up in face, and asked if he had lost his [cough!] mind. His smile quickly diminished and he kept his distance from me after that. I wasn't going to tell anyone, but my driver saw it happen and urged me to mention to someone so we could get a new corpsman because he was pissed and didn't want him in our vehicle after that. Neither did I. I tried to keep it hush, just doing the bare minimum in order to get a new corpsman, but when my 1stSgt heard about it she asked for all the details and then told the BN CO. He called me in and told me all the right stuff (if I had in fact felt victimized, which I didn't, his words would have been comforting). He explained why the [corpsman] needed to be disciplined, so he wouldn't do anything like that again, or worse. And he never came on the road with us again after that."

"I think it's unfortunate this [ahem!] has such a negative perception of the military. She speaks as if we're animals lacking human minds with the ability to reason and know right from wrong."

Let just take a moment to say it makes me sigh contentment whenever a young Marine thinks like I do. It gives me hope.

Trotta may have had a point to make; too bad it was lost in within the miasma of garbage pouring out of the hole under her nose. Her remarks only infuriated Marines I talked too.

"Had she ever been a victim of rape or sexual assault her ass would not have said that and she damn sure would have chosen her words more wisely." You go girl.

Trotta is all kinds of wrong in her perceptions of the military. Sexual assault should be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Our military is held to a high standard of conduct and America should demand we maintain that standard. Her argument is silly. She could just as well say that when you bake a fresh batch of cookies, are you surprised when someone sneaks some cookies for themselves? My answer would be: yes, if they're adults and I told them to keep their hands off the cookies. I expect them to follow orders and know right from wrong. Maybe that's too simple an analogy but simple is how I operate.

Semper Fidelis,
America's 1stSgt

17 comments:

NavyOne said...

Outstanding post to a ridiculous assertion. We must have our victims. And if they don't exist, we will make them up.

Suz said...

Oh BRAVO!
"Women's" support in the military is detrimental to "team" support. When a Marine grabs another Marine's ass, he should be "counselled" for disrupting unit cohesion, not for "sexual" anything.

The social/political dynamics of victim vs. perpetrator, are too divisive for the military. A person breaking rules should be dealt with as exactly that - "a person breaking the rules." Focusing on the victim is coddling the victim, and the military can't afford to coddle anyone. An assault victim needs to get over her victim status RIGHT NOW, or take medical/psych leave until she can. A "victim" within a unit, divides loyalties.

Behave or be punished. It's not personal. Pandering to victims makes it personal.

Anonymous said...

1. Not quite that simple.
2. Her words accurately reflect her view of those serving in the military.
3. They are also indicative of her view of the public at large.
4. The 1% tend to view the rest of us as a brutish lot that need a lot of help from them to find our way around and order our lives.
5. They are pretty well insulated from the rest of us; that helps to create their notion of reality.
6. A generation ago, Pauline Kael (a media type) wrote that she couldn't understand how Mr. Nixon was elected since she didn't know a single Republican.
7. Ms. Kael and Ms. Trotta share a similar notion of reality.
8. The vast majority of your fellow servicemen and women will be as irritated as you are -a mark of the extreme professionalism of the current force.
V/R JWest

Erika said...

You can breathe another sigh of contentment - this teenage girl agrees completely with you! The points that the lady said in the video have been brought up by my parents, who, because they love me and want to keep me safe, are mostly against me joining the Marine Corps. They said that I might face sexual assault if I join. But your article answers their worries perfectly, and if I am ever questioned about this by my parents again, I am going to show them your article.

CI-Roller Dude said...

Top,
There's nothing I can add to what you've said. Like I always said: "Follow the rules!"

What your Marines should say whenever you're not around, and they are in a situation that may not be good:"What would the First Sergeant Do?"

(that's what my platoon said when I wasn't around- What would --- Do?")

Shay said...

Way to go, 1stSgt. People like Trotta make my boot-toes itch.

CI-Roller Dude said...

...oh, and I'd like to tell that woman who's yacking...that most of us really didn't volunteer to go to Iraq to defend the country, but went to take care of our brothers and sisters who deployed with us.
Dang, that woman is ignorant.

Anonymous said...

The USMC tends to draw both alpha males and alpha females (can't speak to the other services since I weren't never been one of them.)

I served 3 years infantry and 3 years REMF (intel). Been in 3 inf bats, one ea. div. Been in lots of rear area units.

It is my opinion that the mindset on such issues as discussed here differ not one whit between grunts and pogues.

IF the men and or women in a particular unit came to believe that an individual within their unit was capable or trending toward such actions as discussed, he/she'd end up listed as UA the next day and remain so listed until it came time to change it to deserter.

Then, some long years later, when the base was being shut down for whatever reason, skeletal remains would be found in one of the outlaying areas.

Not saying it ever happened that way. Not saying I ever saw it happen that way.

Just saying that's the standard issue mindset on such things. There are some things that both male and female alpha types just will not allow.

Now, grab arsing? Yeah, that's gonna happen. It gets dealt with either officially or non officially. But there area lines that will not be crossed.

I'm one of those who's loud and proud against the concept of women in the line infantry. But in any other situation, female Marines were my sisters from other mothers and offending them was an offense against the family.

-Grimmy

Bookworm said...

Absolutely right on the money.

One of the problems I've always had with Islam is the belief that men are so base the only way to deal with their animal instincts is to hide women. I expect more from men.

You're right, too, that a sexually saturated culture is going to affect the military, since our military draws its troops, male and female from that same culture.

And you're also right that we expect more, rather than less, from our military than we do from ordinary people. By enlisting, the guys and gals in the military have announced that they're not ordinary. They expect better from themselves and we non-military types reflect their own faith in themselves.

Oh, and you're also right that empowered women (and I expect female Marines to be in the top 1% of empowered women) have less to fear than women who walk around telegraphing either their victim-hood or the fact that they identify themselves solely as sexual objects and nothing more.

And there is the fact that, underlying all these societal dynamics, boys will be boys and girls will be girls, and any institution that doesn't segregate them entirely must address the occasional unpleasant interactions between the two. (And as you rightly said, humans being humans, even in sex segregated environments, boys will make other boys unhappy and girls will make other girls unhappy. Just check out any prison to confirm this fact.)

All around great post.

Leslie said...

Great post!! I have always wondered if the statistics and the reality were anywhere ever close to one another!! Because you can make statistics say anything you want them to.

CI-Roller Dude said...

At least 53.6 % of the time, statistics are made up on the spot. (like now)

America's 1st Sgt. said...

To all, concerning the numbers on the report cited a friend sent me an e-mail with the following:

"Re your blog on Trotta's comments about rising number of sexual assaults, read excerpts from the Pentagon report, and it appears that the numbers were primarily from the Army. I then checked the CDC stats on sexual assaults in the general population. Long story short, sexual assaults in the US Army appear to be lower or roughly equivalent to the general population. Overall it appears to be another example of the media
1) not doing its background study, 2) being surprised that human behavior in an organization as large as the US Army approaches that of human behavior in the general population.

Needless to say, my numbers are shakey, but based on my simple math, sexual assaults on women in the Army have currenly climbed to just about 2%... compared with 2.5% in the general population. Even the 1.3 million person Army seems to have better behavioral control."

Go figure.

Kanani said...

Well, this was a very sensible, and also spot-on commentary on Trotta's remarks.
I just found her to be so off the mark, and sadly, she gets paid to do this kind of commentary.

Anonymous said...

you know generally, while I value your perspective and find your stories amusing, I respectfully disagree with the few times you have delved into socio-political issues (bra burning feminists emasculating men is one...but mom was a bra burning feminist who would tan my hide if I didn't allow a man to act like a gentleman and treat me like a lady)however I have to say SPOT ON! and as someone who has had several friends sexually assaulted (and had to deal with some rather extreme fallout) I really take issue with the whole 'too much rape'. Ironically I come from a fairly long line of military service and if there is one thing that I was taught it was that if you join the military you should represent the best of the USA. Anything else is just unacceptable, and no the expectation of consummate professionalism is not to much to ask, now having said that I have been keeping an eye on the news stories regarding rape and sexual assault in the military, and most commentators (including NPR) specifically state that with the new guidelines in place for reporting, investigating and charging sexual assault crimes, many victims feel more comfortable and confident coming forward, so rock on with that, 'cause I don't want those assholes representing me, or tarnishing the reputation of the various branches to either the citizens of the US or to citizens abroad. so yeah...just going to stop and do something else before you get more of an incoherent rant on this idiocy.

Becky said...

As a civilian female who has worked with all services for years: I get hit on all the time by civilian men (not tooting my own horn, all women do). Every once in a while -- once or twice a year -- a guy from a different service will say something a little sketchy ("Hey there, little lady. How are you today?" "I think you need to step outside and try that again, Major. You seem to have left your better sense in the hallway.").

I've never had a Marine treat me as anything other than my 'rank' in the organization. I'm treated exactly the same as my male civilian counterparts.

I'm not discounting the problem of sexual assault in the military, but I have a really hard time seeing it as something systematic, rather than there being some real assholes in a 202K pool of folks.

Anonymous said...

Great post...I'm not sure if overall you are a misgynisitc troll or not, but her comments were insulting to all servicemembers, male and female. I take great offense to her insinuating that my male counterparts are unable to control themselves...even the most sexist knuckle draggers I have known understand that some things are not ok.

America's 1st Sgt. said...

You're not sure if overall I'm a misgynisitc troll or not? I would hope you could at least come down on one side or the other. :-)