Saturday, May 26, 2007

Our Heros - The Movie They Didn't Make

A very interesting Alternet article looks at the recent Department of Justice study in the US which shows that ex-servicemen commit rape and sexual assault at much higher rates than those who have not served. Funny how the homecoming scenes in war movies always go for the spinning-the-faithful-girl-round-petting-the-puppy-cue-sunset-pan-out-... rather than the muffled screams and then her in tears in the local police station.

The information is all well and good but it raises more questions than it answers. Is it that the military "belittles" the enemy by feminising them? Is it that nasty potential rapists are drawn to join the military? Is it that rape and sexual assault are commonplace in the military and the culture stays with servicemen after they get home? Is it that life in the military means being away from women for long periods of time and so media messages about women are not counter-balanced by experiences of real women? Is it an expected result of big groups of men hanging out together? Is it that all the training boosts testosterone levels and sex drive? Is it that the military is so disorientating, and doing awful, awful things is taught as being "correct" to the point that judgement is permanently impaired?

The answer is clearly - some of those thing to varying degrees and some other things too.

And the solution is ... complicated. One thing that really would help though is if there were more women in the military. It would change the atmosphere in camps, it would leave male recruits training alongside women, it would result in military leaders being unable to "feminise" the enemy, since their own troops included many women. And - here's the biggie - it would massively cut rape and sexual assault in and out of the forces because women, in or out of uniform, commit those crimes at a tiny fraction the rate men do.


Tony Lawless said...

Actually, I watch AFKN here in Korea. They take this problem seriously. There are regular ads telling men to avoid sexual harrassment and rape at all costs. There are also quite a few women in the US military.

But I think the experience of war itself is totally dehumanizing. I think this is what causes men to rape and kill when they come back. (There may also be an anti-depressant connection too, but I'm not sure about this. There was a sudden rash of four soldiers going home from Iraq and killing their wives, with someone suggesting a link via a particular medical drug they were all on for war trauma.)

Stan said...

Suicide and self-harm are also high among that group. Is it possible that when you're taught to hate and hurt, it becomes pretty much the default behaviour?

Not sure that similarly indoctrinating women in industrial quantities would help. Maybe having less of a throw-away approach to soldiers is what we need. When they finish their service, there must be support for them to integrate back into civilian life.

At the very least, we need to make sure they don't become homeless, top themselves or commit crime.

L.A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Junia said...

I think some of it has to do with the fact that rapists in the military are rarely prosecuted--so by the end of their service, perhaps those who rape civilians have already raped other members of the military and civilian women, and were made bold by the failure to punish them.

Cruella said...

Well in fairness, throughout society, rapes are rarely prosecuted. As I think Ms Greer mentioned recently - men need to rape an average of 50 women before they get convicted. It may as well be legal...