Aug 03 2013
In the July Naval Institute Proceedings, there was an article by RDML Martha Herb and RDML Tony Kurta about the "epidemic" of sexual harassment sweeping the Navy. It's an interesting read-if only for the fact that it well highlights how the services themselves have been co-opted by the feminists and special interests. I can give you the executive summary in a nutshell: The military is full of rapists, the warrior culture and ethos is to blame, and the heroic feminists can only fix the problem by bringing more women into the Navy.
There is so much that is cringe worthy in the contents of this article that its hard to know where to begin in making an objective criticism and refutation of most of the author's points. I guess the best place to start is with their assertion of the size of the problem:
We have a problem. We know we have a problem, yet we are not taking action that is bold and decisive enough to right the ship. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are significantly degrading our operational readiness. More than 10,000 men and women reported they have been victims of unwanted sexual contact in the past 12 months. Most victims are young, enlisted women from 18 to 24. However, it is not just a female issue. Both men and women have been victims, and all too often the perpetrators are other sailors or military personnel. 1 The sexual-assault official reporting rate remains relatively constant. Yet despite all we have done to date, the gap between incidents reported by survey and official reports underlines the magnitude of the problem (see Figure 1). 2 As for sexual harassment, both reports and substantiated incidents are increasing (see Figure 2). We must solve this issue.
Literally thousands and thousands are being groped as we speak!
Except, of course, the statistics they are basing their assumptions on are based on flawed statistical premises-as was pointed out briefly here, and in a lot more depth over at ROK Drop. Specifically the military is lumping dissimilar data together in order to overly dramatize the issue-and distort the real picture. And as GI Korea points out well, that makes it quite hard for decision makers to understand just how nuanced the real picture is.
The authors don't come out and say it-but they do cite it in their footnotes-that they base their conclusions on the flawed 2012 DOD study on Sexual Harassment. If you follow the link to ROK Drop-you will discover exactly why the report is flawed, as well as the statistical slights of the hand used within it to substantiate the overall conclusion-excessively demagogued-by folks both within and outside the military.
I will let others speculate on what their political agendas are, but I can clearly show that they are inaccurately portraying the results from the report. You can read the full report here. What is even more troubling to me is that I expect special interests and politicians to be demagogues, but the media is so poor now a days they do not even bother to read reports like this to determine what the special interests are saying is even true. They just mindlessly report what they are told without doing any critical fact checking. Because of all the sensational claims in the media I decided to go ahead and read the report for myself.
It would appear that the Proceedings, once a respected publication, but now more of a party line distribution node, is guilty of the accusation in the last sentence.
What's wrong with the numbers? Lets let GI Korea explain further:
The media has also been real good at sensationalizing how the 26,000 number is up from 19,000 in 2010. However, what they will not tell you is that this number is down significantly from 2006:
The WGRA is designed so that the results accurately represent the Active Duty force. The design allows the Department to use weighted counts of survey respondents and Military Service end strength on record with DMDC to roughly estimate the number of victims of sexual assault in the years for which data is available. Estimates derived from the rates of USC in the 2012 WGRA suggest that there may have been approximately 26,000 Service members who experienced some form of USC in the year prior to being surveyed. This estimate suggests that there may have been approximately 7,000 more Service members who experienced some kind of USC in 2012 than in 2010, but also suggests that there may have been approximately 11,000 fewer Service members who experienced some form of USC in 2012 than there were in 2006. [Page 12]
So all those sensational headlines that people are reading today in the media could easily have said “Military Sexual Assaults Decline by 30% in the Past 6 Years”. Good luck getting anyone in the media to print that though because the sensationalist headlines of today draw viewers to their networks which reporting this issue with proper context would not do. This is just further evidence that news today is just ‘infotainment’ not really meant to inform people.
The big jump in numbers also should cause people to question why is there such a huge jump in numbers up and down in the past 6 years? I have already provided a possible partial answer to this by the expanded definition of unwanted sexual contact used in the survey. Another partial reason could be how the surveys were administered. Were people in each year asked the same questions? The biggest reason though could be the fact that the military grew in size substantially between 2006-2012. In response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the military grew by nearly 100,000 troops during that time period. The active duty military in 2005 had a total end strength 1,378,014. In 2011 the active duty end strength was 1,468364 service members. With an increase in force size like that is it any wonder why there was more incidents reported in this survey in 2012? With the expected force reductions coming up in the next few years this number should naturally go down just because statistically there is less people in the military to have a USC committed against them. This is all important context that I have seen no one in the media provide in regards to the 26,000 number. If the people in the media sensationalizing this number actually read the report and actually followed military issues they would quickly come to this realization like I did.
I think it is also useful to compare this number to civilian rates of USC. Colleges where young students are piled on top of each other in the dorms and drink a lot of alcohol is I think the closest civilian environment that is similar to living in military barracks. Here is an excerpt from the report that discusses sexual assault on college campuses:
For the estimated 673,000 U.S. civilian college-aged women who experienced nonconsensual vaginal, oral, or anal penetration, only about 77,395 (11.5 percent) indicated they reported it to the police.69 The definition of sexual assault used in this college sample refers to penetrating crimes only. Consequently, it captures fewer crimes than the DoD definition of sexual assault, which encompasses both penetrating and non-penetrating sexual offenses, and attempts to commit these offenses. (Page 53)
So how much higher would the college number be if touching someone’s thigh was defined as unwanted sexual contact like it was in the Pentagon survey? I can guarantee there would be a extremely huge number that would come out of such a survey. (emphasis mine-SS) So why aren’t the politicians demanding that the Secretary of Education conduct such a survey and demand special laws and courts for people who commit sexual assault on college campuses?
Go over and read the rest. The bottom line is, as I have mentioned repeatedly before, is that the military does not have a statistically significant problem, especially when compared to a similar sized and aged civilian cohort.
It is interesting though, that the Proceedings authors chose to not to mention the issue of "buyers remorse" and false accusations:
Notice how abusive sexual contact was added to the definition of sexual assault so people who grab someone’s butt is now equated with serial rapists. Considering the expansion of the definition to include such a broad amount of crimes why should anyone be surprised the number of sexual assaults reported has increased? The special interests basically helped passed laws to ensure an increase in numbers and then bash the Pentagon when they did rise. This expansion in the definition accounted for in FY2012 a 35% increase in sexual assaults reported:………
So out of that 3,374 report number that is often used in the media it gets reduced all the way down to 880 people that it was determined should be court martialed for a sexual assault crime. Remember this a sexual assault using the expanded definition. So how many of these 880 actually committed a sexual assault using the old definition? I could not determine that number from the report because the crimes the 880 people were convicted of were not broken down into separate categories which I found odd. Based on the majority of unrestricted reports being touching incidents I would not be surprised if the majority convicted were for touching crimes. So how were these 880 punished? Well the report did have a chart that showed the punishment these service members received: – See more at: http://rokdrop.com/2013/05/20/how-the-special-interests-are-sensationalizing-the-military-sexual-assault-issue-and-i-have-the-facts-to-prove-it/#sthash.F7ibMQYn.dpuf…………
So from that 3,374 number we now down to 238 convicted in a court martial in 2012. You will sometimes hear the special interests demagogue this number as well by inferring that a whole bunch of servicemembers are getting away with rape. However, as this posting shows not everyone is punished by a court martial, some of the cases get tried the following year, and a large number are baseless cases or acquittals. This is all context that the special interests will not provide. Something else to keep in mind that the above excerpt shows is that anyone convicted of a sexual assault is now automatically discharged. So how many soldiers with multiple deployments and suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will now receive automatic discharges after getting drunk and inappropriately touching someone and thus lose all their medical benefits? I am not saying these soldiers should not be held responsible for what they did, but should they be out on the street with a bad conduct discharge with no health care benefits for touching someone inappropriately? ………..
Something that everyone in the media except the Washington Times has missed is that for the 880 servicemembers that were convicted for sexual assault related crimes, there were 363 unfounded or baseless sexual assault accusations.
As I said before-the quality of the data matters, and the authors of the Proceedings article are ignoring that statistical reality in promoting a certain agenda.
What is that agenda, you may ask, and shouldn't you be concerned about sexual assault? To answer the second question first, of course one should be concerned about sexual assault. But one should also understand exactly what the cause and effects of certain policy decisions are. Phrased a better way-perhaps the Navy would be better served if the authors understood their customer base a tad bit better;
One of our challenges is that leadership does not intimately understand the society from which sailors join the Navy. Our youngest service members communicate differently, see people differently, and have different standards of behavior—particularly concerning sexual conduct—than do most who are in leadership roles. Despite attempts to instill new standards during accession training, this societal culture and “traditional” Navy culture collide. The results? While not scientific, this article’s coauthors have observed or heard the following anecdotal evidence during the past few years:
• “Pursuit of the Battle E” means sleeping with an enlisted female.
• Female mid-grade leaders advise their female sailors when they complain about sexism and sexual harassment, “It’s a man’s world and that’s the way it is, just get used to it.”
• Port visits are for letting off steam. Drinking and sex (among both men and women) can be pursued with available shipmates.
The last two statements are the most noteworthy. The first is just an acknowledgement of fact. Today's Naval leadership does not understand the complications and higher administrative overhead of mixed gender units-and even if they did- would not propose the right policy solutions.
The second statement is an overstatement. The term is more of a witty joke than an actual objective. Most officers are well aware of how dangerous and stupid it is. And for those actually do sleep with enlisted-there is already a system in place to deal with the infraction.
And the third statement is, like the first one, a common sense recognition of the fact that "being treated the same as men" was initially what the drive to end the combat exclusion was all about. So why be surprised when the type of people who are drawn to military service ( both male and female)-sensual, excitement driven, type A personalities-are who they are?
Except, of course, we know that the stated objective of "just being treated like the men", is not true. What the feminists really wanted was to ensure the men and the institution they served in, were changed to be treated like the women-and to ensure that whatever advancement of women occurred, took place at breakneck speed. The results of the last two decades are replete with proof of this.
Inside the article, the authors occasionally let the mask slip and their real intentions be shown: "Our job and challenge as leaders is to change the outcome of this culture clash and create the new Navy culture." This reinforces a tired old shibboleth, namely Navy before 1994=bad. Nothing of greatness was accomplished by the previously primarily male Navy. Navy after 1994=good. As one who served in both Navies, I take objection to that idea.
And here's another shibboleth: "Approximately 24 percent of the target population is eligible to serve, and overall propensity to do so hovers in the low double digits. 4 We need the young women of America if we are to remain the premiere global maritime force. Females represent a large piece of our talent pool, officer and enlisted. Their tendency to serve is about half that of males, and we cannot afford to write off any talent"
This is dog whistle speak for: " We can't let the ratio of women to men fall out to where it naturally would fall out ( at about 15-18%), we have to create quotas and other tools of the professional diversity industry to create a 50-50 split. Child rearing and other societal issues / distinctions between the roles of men and women in American society be damned". It is simply not a true statement as recruiting during the 80's would attest to. Furthermore-the whole 24% thing is a misstatement too. The bottom line is the military is smaller now. And the population to recruiting from is bigger than 20+ years ago.
And finally, as for statement 4: like it or not, dear Naval Leaders, port visits are for getting drunk and letting off steam-and, as it turns out, women are just as good at it as men are. However thanks to other, pretty stupid decisions , you, the Naval Leadership, have foreclosed the market on other outlets that don't involve sex with one's shipmates. Then, when the Sailors start looking with more interest in their fellow crew members, one is shocked, shocked, that they would look in that direction.
No matter how many curfews you impose, no matter how many COM-REL projects you force upon them, you won't change basic facts of human nature. "Wars and lechery, nothing else holds the fashion"
This is what people 18-24 do.( and folks a lot older do as well. ) Learn to live with it. You created this mess with your ideas of the "Star Trek" navy-when it is impossible for such a thing to exist. Here's an unpopular notion: the problem is not that Sailors are dating, having sex or drinking. Its who they are dating, having sex with or drinking with. And right now, you have a situation that encourages Sailors to date other Sailors.
The solutions the authors propose to solve the "widespread problem"? In a nutshell: 1) encourage advancement through assassination and 2) expand the role of the thought police.
According to policy, we handle these complaints the same way we treat those about equal opportunity, and we encourage sailors to handle them using the informal resolution system. If that is unable to resolve the issue, a formal complaint process is available. Instead, any event along the entire behavior continuum should be reported as a restricted or unrestricted report, investigated formally, and adjudicated in the same manner as are sexual assaults (see Figure 3). This would tremendously simplify the process for the victim. There would be no more having to decide whether it was harassment or assault, or whether to use the informal or formal complaint process. Granted, it would require more investigative and adjudication resources (primarily from NCIS and judge advocates general, respectively). But the Navy always applies resources to readiness and safety issues.
In other words-make everything a criminal case. Yep, that's a real great idea, make every Sailor view his / her shipmate as a potential knife in the back. That goes a long way from sending the message that we trust our commanders to exercise leadership. Furthermore, it creates a level of institutional paranoia that makes it virtually assured that the rate of false accusations will increase-just the opposite of what the two RDML's claim they want. It conveniently ignores the changes that have taken place in the Navy over the last 20 years. There are already plenty of avenues for women in the military to report sexual assaults and/or harassment.
Now the problem at this point, is that when one tries to argue for more sanity in the the Navy as it tackles sexual issues, the proponents of the over hyped figures, have also succeeded in virtually making it impossible to raise a rationale voice in opposition. The simple truth, however, is that there needs to be more voices raised in dissent against the railroading of service members-not less.The types of "solutions" that are being proposed to these issues-are fatal to the ethos of the military, and are also not in keeping with a justice proceeding that is supposed to be based on a principle of "innocent until proven guilty". Sorry Martha-but for a man in today's military, being accused of sexual assault is an exercise in just the opposite. One is guilty and it takes moving heaven and earth to prove that one is innocent. That's what needs to change-not the overall "culture".
Which brings me to the second so-called solution: More thought police practicing that ill advised and poorly thought out idea of "intrusive leadership". Intrusive = abusive. The is a way to keep your finger on the pulse of your Sailors without demanding that they submit every detail of their private life to inspection. It requires a plugged in and empowered Chief's mess for one thing, and communication up and down the chain of command. Most of the current crop of Officers have not gotten past the "intrusive" part and its to the detriment of the Navy as a whole. This is just another legacy of Uncle Vern's five years of mis-mangement as CNO. Furthermore it also sends a wonderful hidden message-we say we trust you Sailors, but we really don't. We want you to conform to a rigid bureaucratic code that has absolutely zero to do with a warfighting spirit-and everything to do with making the military just another PC office place.
I'll say it again: "The Military is NOT a moral profession. It may be honorable and needed-but it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, “moral”. An organization whose fundamental purpose is the mass murder of one’s fellow human beings, no matter how necessary in the pursuit of the national defense, is not “moral”. And in recent years, the military particularly jumped off the moral high ground when it became perfectly comfortable with pictures like this one, or this one too."
In summary I will close with my steadfast belief. There is no moral crisis in the Navy. Nor is there a rampant deluge of sexual harassment or assault. The average naval officer or Sailor is getting up each morning and going to work on time, pays his bills, takes care of his family, serve his country-and maybe just maybe-desires to have a good time once in a while, while doing so. Its not an unreasonable expectation on his or her part. The military justice system does not need to be turned outside in-except for the lone possibility of removing the parts that are obsolete and / or for issues for which "crimes" do not now exist in American civil law. ( And before anyone asks-I am not talking about rules about fraternization. I am talking about the sodomy and adultery provisions). The tools are all in place to deal with bonafide cases of assault. There are already sufficient remedies in place-there is absolutely no reason to add to them.
Here's an idea though-how about backing up your Commanding Officers? How about leaving them alone and let them run their commands as they see fit? ( Something one didn't do in the case of JP Honors by the way).
How about scoping the problem correctly? As has been pointed out in careful analysis of the "numbers" they are not near as high as people say they are.
How about incentivizing the behavior you want-and treat Sailors like grown ups? When you treat them like adults they will behave like adults. Too often-as is evidenced in 7th fleet, they are treated like children. Adults in our society get to make choices; good ones and bad ones. So long as they show up to work on time, you can't influence much else. Do away with the myriad of personnel policies you have right now that literally encourage Sailors to date other Sailors. A big part of the problem as it currently exists is that folks don't know the limits of when dating ends and "other things" begin. Zero dating policies might not pass the "legal test"-but they do help to drive home the idea of discretion.
While you are at it-how about not undercutting the authority of LPO's and CPO's? Contrary to popular belief, most men and women know real sexual harassment when they see it. Like bad pornography, one may not be able to verbally define it-but they know what it is. And most are well equipped to deal with it-if you senior officers would just let them.
Those who say there is a "rape culture" are just lying, pure and simple. The military takes sexual assaults very seriously and anyone claiming otherwise is out of touch with today’s military culture. Which by the way, Admiral Herb, does not need a wholesale changing.