As often happens, this post was triggered by a post from another blogger. This time it was Jonathan Wolfman’s Widening Sex-Crimes Scandal @ Air Force Training Command(s).
Power and control are the lifeblood of military life. I know this not from personal experience – I am decidedly unsuited for regimentation of most kinds. I know this from observations, anecdotes from family members who served in every branch of the U. S. military, and fictional portrayals of military life.
The deplorable crime of rape, say the experts, is also all about power. It has little if anything to do with the drive for sexual release. It’s more about humiliation and control. It’s more about power.
Many years ago I traveled from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to the U.S. Marine Corps Camp Pendleton to witness my nephew’s graduation from basic training. The first part of the ceremonies took place inside a gigantic auditorium. As I waited for the newly minted Marines to march into the assembly hall, I thought about the little boy, only 8 months younger than my own son, who had always been a free spirit with a mind of his own. His independence was constantly straining against the societal regimentation that required him to eat certain things, play with certain toys, and wear certain clothes.
Back in that Marine Corps hall, I looked frantically in the visual sea of monotony to try to pick my nephew out of the thousands who sat at attention, eyes front, palms on thighs. A sense of dis-ease overwhelmed me, for I share his fierce independence, and this blatant loss of his individuality greatly disturbed me.
His father, who was seated next to my sister, the Marine’s mom, had also been in the Corps. I remember what happened to him when, during basic training, his teenaged wife, my sister, made the mistake of including one of his favorite peppermint hard candies in a letter to him. My sister had been beside herself with remorse because the commanding officer (or drill sergeant or whatever they have in the Marines) made a spectacle of the letter and its contents by burying the candy in a pile of sand, forcing my brother-in-law to dig it out of the pile with his bare hands and eat the candy, sand, wrapper and all.
They tear us down first so they can build a man in the shoes a boy once stood. That was his explanation.
The power of the chain of command was absolute. The control over the new recruits was absolute – when to sleep, when to eat, when to eliminate their body wastes.
From the outside looking in, I have never had a sense that mental health was a priority in the military. In fact, some of the characteristics found in the profile of a rapist, according to forensic psychologists and police profilers, are traits that tend to be rewarded in the military, at least for those in leadership positions.
Take a look at the description of a category of rapist called Power Assertive in a report on the website Forensics Talk:
The Power Assertive rapist has an extreme sense of superiority and entitlement. He will rape women simply because he can. For him, rape is a way of validating his masculinity. This is what men do, according to him. ... He is usually athletic, exercises often, likes a sense of style; dresses flashy and drives a flashy car, and is loud and boisterous. He likes the macho image. He wants to be known as a "man's man".
His psycho-social background will usually include a history of domestic problems and multiple divorces. He will probably work in a male dominated field like construction or police work. Unlike the peeping Tom type of rapist, this guy will haunt the singles bars where he can have plenty of females to pick from. He will use the con approach, getting to know his victim, then offering to give her a ride home or walking her to her car. He will usually rape away from where he lives or works.
His fists will be his weapon. He will use a moderate level of force, if the victim resists, and will assault the same victim repeatedly. He could care less about the comfort and well being of his victim. He may assault the victim vaginally, then anally, then force her to perform fellatio(classic technique). He will attack with both verbal and physical violence, committing a very brutal attack, although he doesn't intend to kill. He may slap, hit, curse, and tear clothes.
He will attack most often in the early evening hours, between 7;00pm and 1:00am, and tends to commit the rapes in a 20-25 day pattern. He picks women of his own race and age group. His motive is control and domination of "the weaker sex". He's very arrogant and doesn't try to hide his identity. There is no apology afterwards, nor will he attempt to contact the victim later. He keeps no souvenirs and doesn't keep a diary.
Among all rapists, the Power Assertive type represents anywhere from 12 -44% – I have seen conflicting estimates; most have been on the higher end. But given the profile of the Power Assertive rapist, and given the culture of the military in general, is it reasonable to guess that percentage would increase in the ranks of the military?
The subject of Jonathan Wolfman’s post today happened to be rapes that have been alleged by female U.S.Air Force trainees. There is no reason for me to believe there would be any less number of allegations based in fact in the Army, Navy, Coast Guard or Marine Corps.
If one of those Power Assertive airmen were to target another male subordinate – and that happens since rape has nothing to do with sexual desire or preference – he would run the risk of being (wrongly) labeled “gay,” a fate worse than death for some homophobic members of the armed services. That leaves the usually more physically vulnerable female who is a captive and subordinated prey.
It would appear it is going to take more than vigilance, training and increased prosecution of offenders to protect our countries female service members. Nothing short of a complete revamping of the military culture will make a dent in the problem.