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What The Air Force Doesn’t Get About Rape Culture Is A Lot

May 7, 2013

“A grotesque parody of an etiquette poster.”

Let’s just say that the Air Force’s response to the epidemic of military sexual assault is a little off key.

It may be advisable to submit [rather] than resist,” reads the brochure, issued to airmen at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where nearly 10,000 military and civilian personnel are assigned…

The brochure, acquired by Danger Room, issues a series of guidances on “risk reduction” for sexual assault. Among others, it advises people under sexual attack in parking lots to “consider rolling underneath a nearby auto and scream loud. It is difficult to force anyone out from under a car.” A public affairs officer at Shaw, Sgt. Alexandria Mosness, says she believes the brochure is current.

While the brochure also explains that sexual assault is not always committed by people who “don’t look like a rapist” — attackers “tend to have hyper-masculine attitudes,” it advises — it does not offer instruction to servicemembers on not committing sexual assault. Prevention is treated as the responsibility of potential victims.

Rapists look for vulnerability and then exploit it in those who: are young (naive); are new to the base, deployment, area, etc.; are emotionally unstable,” the brochure  continues. (Wired – emphasis mine)

This very helpful advice is not all that helpful. For one thing, “as a general rule research indicates and it’s generally understood that fighting back often can fend off the attacker and usually does not lead to greater injury.” Also, most military sexual assaults aren’t occurring in parking lots*.  And, it shouldn’t escape notice that this language sounds an awful lot like it’s your own damn fault if you get raped you naive, emotionally unstable girl! That’s rape culture for you, folks. It’s also apparently Air Force culture. (Hey, remember Tailhook?)

***One very weird aspect about this is that it comes to light just a day after the Air Force officer in charge of sexual assault prevention was arrested for sexual assault — in a parking lot. (I know!)

Were this brochure the only misstep, we could perhaps shrug it off. But of course it’s not.

The brochure is “an affront to victims”, Purchia told Danger Room. “The Air Force should be passing out pamphlets to our men and women in uniform on how not to commit sexual assault. … This brochure is just the latest in a long history of failed programs and policies. The military’s sexual assault prevention campaigns are rooted in a wrong headed 1950′s paradigm.”

The military does some of that — not without controversy. An improv group called “Sex Signals” has performed for airmen to teach scenarios about sexual assault in what an official Air Force release called “a ‘lively and humorous’ way.” The Army has a video game designed to instruct soldiers about the dangers of “alcohol-induced date rape.” The military has also come under criticism for a poster advising servicemembers to “Ask When She’s Sober,” which the New York Times blasted as a “grotesque parody of an etiquette poster.”

This is serious. The responsibility for sexual assault does not lay with the victim. When you have a population of young men, swimming in testosterone and steeped in violence, you have a disaster just waiting to happen. Military leadership is not doing an adequate job of policing and adjudicating this conduct. For a perfect example, we just go back to March when an Air Force officer’s jury conviction for rape was thrown out by his commanding officer. (Yes, they can do that.)

Perhaps this is why one in five women seen by VA hospitals suffers from Military Sexual Trauma (and subsequent PTSD). Later today, the Pentagon will release its annual report on military sexual assault. It is expected to report 26,000 instances of sexual assault in 2012 — that’s about 70 per day.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2013 5:36 am

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong giving advice to potential victims on how to protect themselves. My best advice is to get themselves some defense training, there are methods to bring an attacker to their knees, begging for mercy instead of the other way around.

    Still, it’s about respect and everyone deserves the same respect. I do think that if a man’s got a problem with forcing women to have sex with them, any instructions are not going to stop them. Sexual predators don’t follow any rules but their own.

    I do like the idea about climbing beneath a car and screaming your lungs out. At least if you do not know how to defend yourself, at least know how to scream loudly.

  2. May 7, 2013 1:54 pm

    I knew the statistics were high on female assault in the military, but I had no idea they were that high 😦 I’m surprised that this doesn’t deter some women from joining! It’s truly very sad 😦

  3. May 7, 2013 12:18 pm

    Reblogged this on FEMBORG.

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