Rowan Scarborough's article published Sunday in the Washington Times is a perfect illustration of a culture of misogyny and victim blaming, which has perpetuated the ongoing epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the United States Military. In addition to being inaccurate, the arguments put forth by Scarborough serve to advance a reprehensible and thinly veiled attack on women who serve in the military.
In his article, Scarborough openly suggests that women are undermining the effectiveness of our forces by sexually baiting male service members and then crying rape when it goes farther than they anticipated. Scarborough quotes a retired Army officer and analyst at the Family Research Council, who argues "some women invite problems which lead men on and then result in advances that women can't turn off. Too often, such female culpability leads to allegations of sexual contact, assault, and then the women feign innocence."
This line of reasoning is insulting both in its exoneration of rapists through the insinuation that men are not responsible for their own behavior, and in its demeaning and absurd suggestion that women invite violent sexual attacks upon themselves.
While the rest of the country is reeling from a series of military sexual assault scandals and the shocking increase in incidents of sexual assault in the military last year, which rose by 34.5 percent to over 26,000 (13,900 of which were male victims), Scarborough has chosen to fixate on the 444 cases that were deemed "unfounded" in the annual report. In his effort to discredit sexual assault victims and paint women in the military as malicious liars, Scarborough conflates the designation of an allegation as "unfounded" with a "false" report.
According to the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response annual report,
When an MCIO makes a determination that available evidence indicates the individual accused of sexual assault did not commit the offense, or the offense was improperly reported or recorded as a sexual assault, the allegations against the subject are considered to be unfounded.1
Additionally, the determination of an allegation as "unfounded" can be made both by the investigating officers as well as by the commander reviewing the investigation when determining whether to discipline or prosecute. As we witnessed in the recent scandal at Aviano Air Base in Italy, an allegation can be deemed unfounded by a commander even after a jury has reviewed the evidence and rendered a guilty verdict. Advocates for military sexual assault victims have long argued -- and the Pentagon's recent report supports the notion -- that command involvement in such cases often leads to bias in favor of the perpetrator, and result in investigations being shut down instead of prosecuted.
Like many rape-apologists, Scarborough uses the worn out argument that a large portion of victims either fabricated their assaults, or they invited the violence on themselves, and therefore are responsible. However, all credible research on the subject of false reporting indicates that this simply is not the case. Esteemed researcher and psychologist David Lisak has conducted extensive research on the prevalence of false reports, which have consistently found that false allegations of rape are rare, and suggests that cases are often erroneously labeled as false or unfounded due to a lack of understanding on the part of law enforcement.
The bottom line is that women serving in the military are not the problem -- rapists and a culture that condones rape are the problem. The debate should be focused on how to eradicate this crime, protect men and women serving in our armed forces, and create an environment conducive to mission readiness and unit cohesion free from sexual violence. Too often victims of rape and sexual assault are forced to bear the brunt of the blame for the crimes perpetrated against them, and this has led to an environment in which victims feel unsafe to report and perpetrators continue to prey on their fellow service members. In addition to being wrong, the comments and assertions made in Scarborough's article are irresponsible and harmful to the brave women and men who have signed up to serve this country.
1 FY2012 SAPRO Report, Page 66-67.