By Nick Palmisciano
We need to step up.
All of us.
The Department of Defense is now estimating that anywhere from 20-25% of all women who have served in the military are raped, and up to 30% have been sexually assaulted in some manner. One in four of the women we served with has been raped?
Is that really acceptable to any of us?
Is that what we’re about?
Let me be clear: I know with 100% certainty that most members of the military are not rapists. I also know that combat does not turn a man into a rapist. Rapists, either through nature or nurture are created. Once they are created, they never cease raping. Even men who have been chemically castrated will continue to rape using objects. That’s how deep the psychosis goes and these acts showcase more than anything that rape is not about sex, but rather about power.
Rapists have a similar pathology to serial killers. They like to stalk and hunt their victims. They enjoy the terror they bring to their victims during the act. Most of all, though, the rapist enjoys replaying the act in his head after the fact. He is sexually aroused by remembering the terror of his victims. Where a serial killer lives for the terror leading up to the kill, a rapist revels in the fact that once a woman or man is raped, that terror remains with them all the days of their lives.
I also realize rape is prevalent in our society. While the media points out there is 2-3 times more rape in the military than in the general population, when you look at similar age groups it is comparable or even better. The military rape rate, for example, actually falls short of college campuses, where 25-30% of women admit to being raped at some point in four years.
Well since we’re the same as college, it’s not that big of a deal, right? Rape is just something that happens, right?
We’re supposed to be better than that. We represent the best the nation has to offer. Our country places within us a significant trust – that we will represent the nation with character and win its wars. More importantly, our sisters-in-arms trust us.
Unfortunately, in my life, I have encountered many women dear to me who have been raped. For one reason or another, I am the person they turned to with their horror. I cannot put into words the humiliation, guilt, and abject fear these women felt. Candidly, despite hearing their stories and listening with tear-filled eyes, having never been raped myself, I cannot truly imagine what they survived.
I can say this, though: the foundation of our armed forces is that we can trust each other with our lives. Hell, even when we don’t like each other, we trust that each of us can do the job. We trust that we have each other’s backs. That is why when a male troop commits these acts to a female troop, the crime is worse than a traditional rape. It isn’t a college friend raping her. It is her goddam brother.
Our sisters-in-arms trust us with their lives. They are soldiers for Christ’s sake! We owe it to them to look out for them. We owe it to them to ensure we are people worthy of the uniform we put on.
Men: We need to look out for our sisters. If you have a bad feeling about someone, look into it. Don’t turn the other cheek. If you think something has happened, explore it. If you know something has happened, report it. I realize the bonds of brotherhood, especially among combat veterans, is virtually unbreakable, but you cannot let these guys go unpunished. This guy, who fought with you, and may be a great soldier in every other capacity, still raped your sister. He raped your sister. And he will rape again. Over and over and over again. He will never stop. It is the defining characteristic of his life. You cannot look at yourself in the mirror every morning knowing this is happening. You have to do what’s right or you are not a man at all. You have to protect our sisters-in-arms.
Women: Look out for your sisters. Look for signs of abuse. If you know something went down, report to every man, woman and child you can until something is done. If someone has assaulted you, please report it. It is not your fault. It is the evil son-of-a-bitch that did it to you, and you should carry no guilt associated with the act. The guilt is all his. The evil is all his.
Please, also, police your own. Look out for the liars. While reports of rape have risen 4% in the last 3 years, false reports have risen 35%. First, if you’re falsely reporting a rape, you’re a worthless human being who is accusing a man of possibly the worst act a man can commit for your own personal gain. Second, you are doing a grave injustice to the real victims. Every time there is a false allegation identified, you give investigators more reason to doubt victims, and make their plight even more horrific. Shame on you.
Finally, Commanders: I don’t care if he is your best soldier who ups your company’s rating on X, Y, and Z and has 34 medals and she is the most out-of-shape worthless soldier you have ever seen, he still may have raped her. You owe it to every soldier who has ever donned the uniform and especially to your soldier to do a complete and impartial investigation. If you can’t, then you need to admit that and push it to a higher level. It is your job to take care of your soldiers – all of your soldiers – not just the ones you happen to like the most.
I know most of you feel as I do. I know that. I know most of you find rape appalling and disgusting. The thing is, it isn’t going away. It only seems to be getting worse. It is easier to say, “I’d never rape and my unit is all a bunch of good guys who would never rape anyone,” then it is to admit the truth: 1 out of 4 of the women you know in the military have been raped. Odds are you know at least one of the rapists.
Protecting the nation has to begin with protecting the men and women to our left and right.
It just has to.
We need to do more. We need to look out for each other.
Our sisters-in-arms deserve better.
As does our nation.
And as always, the solution lies on our shoulders.