I generally keep my toes out of the murky, scum filled, depths of political debate. But when the military is conjured up as a prop to back someone's argument, I feel obliged to comment. I'm a military professional whose job is to enforce good order and discipline and train Marines on professional conduct. As such, I figure I might have something to offer on the matter discussed in the below clip.
The topic was women, sexual assault, and their right to protect themselves with firearms. Toward the end Zerlina Maxwell invokes women in the military:
“If firearms were the answer, then the military would be the safest place for women and it’s not.”
This ridiculous statement presumes the U.S. military is an armed camp and we walk around strapped with firearms twenty four hours a day. Seriously? The only time I've been armed every moment of the day was in combat. I wish folks would actually take the time to learn something about us before spouting off such nonsense. Unless you're in a combat zone, all the weapons are locked up in the armory and accounted for every day. Bases have closed their gates and shut down when it has been reported a weapon was unaccounted for. Within the lexicon of terms which cause joy and elation in our world, the term: "Site count is up!", meaning all weapons are accounted for, is second only to liberty call. Entire units of Marines have sat on their hands waiting to go home until this wonderful exclamation was pronounced.
Since Maxwell decided to drag the military into the conversation I feel the need to comment on some of her other remarks.
“I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there.” She went on to say: “We can prevent rape by telling men not to commit it.”
Based on my over 20 years of service, I can assure everyone merely telling people not do something doesn't prevent it from happening. For instance, at nearly every opportunity I tell Marines not to drink and drive. Yet, magically, I've still had to deal with those who get DUIs.
Maxwell goes on to claim if we train men not to rape women then women will no longer have to face sexual assault situations. Basically, if we train men not to rape, we will prevent rape. As much as we'd like to think this logic would work it simply doesn't. How do I know? Well, every licensed driver in America is trained not to exceed the speed limit, yet police still write numerous speeding tickets daily. Speaking of the police, wouldn't it be cool if we trained everyone to simply obey the law. We'd no longer need a police force! Or prisons! Clap your hands if you believe in fairies!
I can't count the number of hours we spend training Marines on subjects like Sexual Assault Prevention and Reporting, Unit Victim Advocacy, ethics, core values, moral courage, and the like. Whenever I talk about substance abuse I remind Marines the number one date rape drug is alcohol. Whenever I give a liberty brief I talk about conduct, not drinking and driving, not abusing women. Basically I remind the Marines we all signed up to be the guy on the recruiting poster. If we set out to be the warrior who is dedicated to defending others, why would we threaten the very citizens we are sworn to protect with drunk driving and sexual assault? I know without a doubt I have made an impact on the conduct of the Marines within my sphere of influence. Despite this, there are always the few who refuse to get on board and do whatever they want despite the number of hours they've been lectured and trained.
As concerns sexual assault training, on any given military base there are posters everywhere pointing out: "Sexual assault is a crime!" Never once have I seen a service member attend training or look at one of those posters then suddenly face palm himself exclaiming: "If I had only known!"
I attended a number of leadership seminars on sexual assault prevention. In one we were informed there is no sexual assault prevention program in the United States which has been found to prevent sexual assault. This confirms my belief that all the training in the world does not repair a fundamental character flaw or prevent self centered, evil intent. As a matter of fact, our training focus has been shifting from "rape is bad" to addressing bystander behaviors.
Steve Thompson, of Central Michigan University, has created a great program called No Zebras. I had a chance to listen to his presentation and speak with him during a sexual assault seminar. His main focus of effort is to encourage victims and bystanders to recognize then intervene in sexual assault situations. Imagine that, the foremost expert on sexual assault is encouraging possible victims to recognize predatory behavior in people they know and avoid being assaulted. Bystanders are being encouraged to recognize it and intervene.
I find it hypocritical we have a culture dictating women should not be encouraged to defend themselves from assault yet embrace the battlecry: "Women kick ass too!" We encourage women to advance into combat after all. How can Maxwell and those like her believe American women can defend their country yet not themselves?
Some of my other posts on sexual assault in the military:
Thoughts On Sexual Assault Prevention.
More Thoughts On Sexual Assault.
What Did They Expect?