I heard a troubling statistic the other day: There have been 500,000 people — mostly women, but not all — in the history of the U.S. military to be sexually assaulted.
Even more troubling: Most cases were never reported, and even those that were, only a select few ended with a conviction of the perpertrator.
500,000. That’s more U.S. troops than we lost in World War II. The number was brought up in the 2012 documentary “The Invisible War” which was on local PBS station KNCT a few days ago.
The filmmakers derived the stat from the government’s own estimation that about 19,000 sexual assaults in the military took place last year (although only about 3,000 were actually reported).
“Now, if you multiply that times the decades that this has been going on, there’s over 500,000, perhaps even close to a million men and women who have been sexually assaulted over the last three generations,” said Kirby Dick, the documentary’s director, during an interview with PBS last year.
The film mainly follows several women’s haunting stories of how they were raped, and how the military structure — which should have protected them — failed them completely.
Instead of rapists being brought to justice, the women found themselves charged with crimes like “conduct unbecoming of an officer” for, as their accusers said, lying. Here’s the ugly truth: There is a lot of sexual frustration that gets built up in men — and to a lesser extent, women — when they head out to the field or are deployed for weeks or months at a time.
Some soldiers — very few, but enough to be a problem — take that frustration out on their fellow soldiers. Don’t get me wrong; there’s no excuse for one soldier attempting to rape another. It’s downright evil, and any perpetrator should be booted out of the Army and sent to prison for years. In 2013, the headlines hit close to home when reports came out about a sexual assault prevention noncommisioned officer at Fort Hood being accused of assault and running a low-key prostitution ring.
More headlines and reports will surface this year, just as they have for decades. It’s a dark side of our military that will take a long time to overcome.
But it’s something the military needs to grasp and really take a stand on other than silly posters or so-called prevention offices that also house sexual predators.
Will 2014 be the year the war on sexual assault in the military gets real?
It should. We owe it to the 500,000.