Doonesbury Takes on Sexual Assault in the Military

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by Melissa Silverstein
June 11, 2012 10:19 AM
8 Comments
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Gotta love Garry Trudeau.  He has created a series of cartoons that play off the incredible, heartbreaking new documentary The Invisible War about the plague of sexual assault in the military.  The film opens June 22.  It also just won the Audience Award for best documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival.

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8 Comments

  • PAC | July 25, 2012 7:04 PMReply

    I applaud your intolerance to rapists. Unfortunately, many commanders are much more tolerant than you. How do I know? My credentials: 26 years AD Army. Serves as Sexual Assault Care Coordinator/ Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner.
    Attends US Army Sexual Assault Medical Management Conference yearly.
    We took the decision making process out of the hands of the commanders because they FAILED to protect those soldiers you state we cannot function without.
    The Command may not decide if a criminal action did or did not in the case of sexual assault. He or she may not judge the merit of an accusation.
    Because enough accusations stopped at the command. The “good soldier” excuse – he’s a “good soldier” , the victim is not, let’s get rid of the chaos causing victim. For the good order and discipline of the unit.
    So, for the good order and discipline of the US Armed Forces as a whole, the Chain-of-Command is bypassed.
    The restricted/unrestricted reporting policy allows a US Solider to report an assault to medical personnel, MP’s, Chaplin ETC. US Army Soldiers are required to report suspected assaults. The Commander is required to report suspected assaults to the PM or MPs.
    Part of the restricted reporting process allows victims, who are (notice the present tense) targeted and harassed by fellow soldiers , to receive the appropriate medical and mental health care they need and deserve without the overwhelming harassment a victim WILL face in his or her unit.
    Most restricted reports – 98% - convert into unrestricted reports when the victim is in a safer place, mentally and physically.
    This does not touch the tip of the iceberg of the number of assaults that are never reported to command, never prosecuted; remain unknown for years until comics like this encourage victims to step up.
    Surveys reveal 1 in 4 female soldiers are sexually harassed/ assaulted at least once during their career. They are more subject to PTSD and discipline problems after an assault by the same comrades they are supposed to trust to watch their backs. Trudeau ‘s stats are correct.
    How does THIS fall in line with your idea of good order and discipline?

  • Julie | June 15, 2012 2:17 PMReply

    Eric, I appreciate your passion and wish there were more of you. Generals may be doing cheetah flips but their commands are wearing horse blinders. As a parent, there is nothing more debilitating than to get a phone call from your daughter overseas stating that she had been brutally sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier. Her call was 3 days after the incident because the investigators took her phone for evidence! This happened 4 weeks ago. It took 1 week to move her out of the unit, where she had to stand next to the rapist in formation every day, and had to work side by side with him every day. It took 2 weeks to get her moved out of the barracks where she lived above the rapist. And this was only because the medic that she saw was livid that nothing had been done by Command. She was a prisoner in her own room because she could not go out for fear of seeing the rapist and being harassed by other enlisted. This week she was finally granted time to see a behavioral health specialist. And this specialist feels she should go home-because she can't "deal or heal" while he is still walking about post freely! WHAT is wrong with this picture? Send the victim away because we know the Army can't (or won't) deal with the criminal?
    “If he raped one Soldier he's surely at risk to rape another." My daughter has been in this unit for less than 2 months. This rapist has been in this unit since 2005-I would venture to guess that my daughter was not his first victim, nor his last.
    This was the 20th assault on this post this year with only 6% reporting. The "internal bureaucracies" know the stats - why can't they figure out how take care of those that belong and get rid of those that don't?

  • PAC | July 25, 2012 8:58 PM

    Julie - I feel for you and hope you daughter makes it through this time of anger and pain. We are trying to make this system and are fighing years of silence both in and out of the military service. It make it worse when you can't get away from your rapist. Yay for the medic that insisted the change of command follow the regs a to protect the soldier.
    ERIC - another example of why we had to take the process away from the command. We have clear procedures in place to remove/separate the victim and the suspect - and they were not followed. This is a failure of command from SSG to LTG.

  • Linn | June 15, 2012 10:12 PM

    @Julie Thank you for sharing your story. I hope your daughter and you find some kind of peace so she may move on. I also hope for justice, but I believe you're both more important than focusing on the vengeance aspect. But I will use my voting power to change this country (and military) for the better. Please thank your daughter for serving our country.

  • Eric | June 13, 2012 5:16 AMReply

    For the first time in 30 years of reading Doonesbury as a fan, I want to smack Trudeau in the face. Almost everything in this series is a damned lie. I'm a career Soldier who's served as an officer and an enlisted man. The U.S. Army values it's female Soldiers highly. Even though the stats in this strip are incorrect, I see Generals doing cheetah flips to prevent Sexual Harrassment/Sexual Assault both out of common sense and career sustainment. There are whole internal bureacracies dedicated to preventing it. Yeah, I (usually when drunk) sometimes wish the Army could go back to being the Boys Club it once was. But I also sometimes wish we could go back to muzzle loading muskets. In modern context both impulses are equally irrational. The Army CANNOT FUNCTION without female Soldiers.

    One thing that Trudeau definitely screwed up is how sexual assault is reported. For over 6 years now Soldiers (there are male rape victims too) can make a non official report to Army authorities other than their own Chain of Command. These authorities DO NOT relay this information to the Chain of Command. At the time I heard this I almost choked. I can't speak for all my fellow officers but as a commander I would never tolerate a rapist in my unit. If he raped one Soldier he's surely at risk to rape another. I would cut that person out of the force like a cancer. Why? Because, besides the basic immorality, if word got around within the unit good order and discipline would be violated. Civilians may think good order and discipline are quaint notions, but when people have automatic weapons they're key. In an incident years ago a tank gunner in a live fire exercise destroyed another tank because he thought the guy who slept with his wife was in there. He killed the entire crew and it turned out it was the wrong tank! It's only a matter of time before a Soldier rape victim-or friend or boyfriend does something similar. At best we can only hope their target acquistion and aim are better. By instituting this policy the Army severely curtailed the commander's ability to maintain good order and discipline in order to help rape victims. Time will only tell if this was the right decision. But Trudeau actively denies this policy exists.

    Go ahead and compare statistics and look at policy.

    http://www.sapr.mil/index.php/annual-reports
    http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates
    http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/

  • mark lipsky | June 13, 2012 1:25 PM

    It's all true Eric. And the stats come from the DOD. So how about you pull your head out of the sand - or wherever it's buried - and smack the rapists in your barracks before smacking the messenger. Then smack yourself for being an apologist for the many sexual criminals in your ranks.

  • justiceday | June 13, 2012 2:33 AMReply

    The sad thing is so many people will ignore this, and most of all he DoD will. They have known about this problem for years and do everything they can to get away with it. The truth is they could go after old cases and pull in commands and rapist from years ago. Once in the military you can always be called back and prosecuted. But everything from NCIS to the Pentagon is a joke. And having congressional members that help them cover up rape doesn't help (Mark Critz).
    The site www theusmarinesrape com tells the story of how a rape was ignored by camp pendleton all the way to the Pentagon and was then covered up. The victims local sheriff has the evidence but no jurisdiction and no one in the federal government will talk to him. And Obama ignored a state senator asking for help on the case. The evidence is all there and overwhelming.
    www theusmarinesrape com
    www citizensagainstmarkcritz com

  • Eric | June 14, 2012 5:29 AM

    Um, what part of my "cut that person out of the force like a cancer" did you not understand? Admittedly, it would have to be by legal means, not in accordance to over heated public opinion. It's been a long time since officers could summarily execute Soldiers for severe offences. Do you want to go back to that? I don't. And how, exactly, am I an apologist? Because I'm male? Because I'm a Soldier? If I was a female Soldier who defended the force would I still be one? (I'm guessing probably) And why don't you join the Army and reform it? Oh, yeah. Because you're a liberal who's too morally above the Army and it's ilk to join or even spend any time studying it. It's a choice the liberals made in the 60's and the Republicans have been reaping the benefits every since. And will until the ones that believed patriotism is more than flag waiving and actually served die out and we're stuck with frat boys and Evangelicals. But more than happy to send it everywhere for some poorly thought out humanitarian mission and sharp shoot everything it does. Yeah, the Army screws up - I could tell you tales that would whiten your hair. I've also seen excellence you'd never believe. I've read about many armies from the Roman Legions to the Red Army and when you're dealing with human beings the only real difference is the quality and quantity of errors. But we'll never get any solutions from poorly informed sanctimony alone.

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