Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Near Tigers In the Zoo" and Other Narratives

[TW: Sexual assault, harassment]

From msnbc, 14 current and former members of the US military are suing the Pentagon for allegedly ignoring sexual harassment and rape claims:

"The lawsuit alleges that the Pentagon has failed to crack down on the sexist culture of the military services or implemented policies that would insure aggressive investigations of those accused and bar retaliation against service members who file complaints....

The lawsuit specifically names Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, as defendants, charging that both have failed to take aggressive measures to deal with the problem or follow edicts from Congress.

It charges, for example, that Rumsfeld in 2004 delayed reporting members to a commission mandated by Congress to investigate the military's handling of sexual assault cases and resisted congressional oversight of the issue. It accuses Gates of violating the plaintiffs' constitutional rights by permitting military commanders to use "nonjudicial punishments" for accused rapists — and failing to meet a congressionally mandated deadline for creating a database that would centralize all reports of rapes and sexual assaults."

The lawsuit calls for an "objective third party to handle sexual assault complaints" which sadly, seems necessary given the degree to which the military seems unwilling to take rape allegations seriously.

The links within this post describe several assaults experienced by the plaintffs, so a TW applies for anyone wishing to continue on to other sites. For instance, from msnbc:

"One of the more disturbing stories in the complaint is that of Sarah Albertson, a former Marine corporal at Camp Pendleton who says that after a night of partying, a superior office climbed into the bed where she was sleeping and forced himself on her.

'I just kind of panicked, froze. I didn't say anything,' she said. She admits she was drinking heavily that night, but after reporting the incident, she was still forced to work in the same office as her assailant."

She admits she was drinking heavily that night? So... what then? Unlike when men drink, a woman's right to refuse sex decreases as her alcohol intake increases?

Of those rapes that are reported, the military prosecutes only 8% of the them. Implications like the above don't help.

I first read of this lawsuit a couple of days before news broke of the sexual assault of reporter Lara Logan in Egypt, where she was covering the protests. I've been reading a lot of incredibly disturbing rape culture narratives about Logan's assault, one of which I want to highlight and juxtapose with this military lawsuit. I found this particular one uttered by a woman, following the CNN article; it's been echoed elsewhere:

"this goes to show you that we are no longer safe in those countries(hello) no woman thats pretty and blonde should be near tigers in the zoo."

Although an epidemic of un-punished rape is going on in the US military, a quite pervasive narrative is that rape is something that happens to women mostly in "those countries" and is committed by "those" sorts of men who are basically animals, unlike "our" men who are our civilized protectors (and filmmakers, and football stars, and internet heroes).

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