Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, The Washington Post reports this week that in addition to the escalating sexual assault problem in the the military, there have been an uncomfortable number of sex crimes, convictions and what can only be called criminal behavior at the recruiter level, too.
Turns out, in all branches, a number of guys put in the position of shepherding young people into the military turn out to be classic predators, or in some cases, highly sexed (adult!) meat heads who don’t know it’s wrong to have sex on office desks or in parked cars and exchange nude pictures with the 17-year-old high school students they’re charged with recruiting into the service. In the worst cases, male recruiters have been charged with raping and sodomizing young women and according to WaPo’s report, not all have been charged by civilian authorities, resulting in a lighter sentence for their crimes.
“The extent of the problem is hard to ascertain because the Defense Department does not keep figures on recruiters accused of sex crimes,” the paper said Monday. That’s a shocker. We know from last week’s bad news that the DoD estimates that some 26,000 sexual assaults occurred throughout the military ranks in 2012. Of them, only 3,374 were even reported, mostly because of fear of reprisals. Sadly, we’re getting a picture of how far these problems go back.
“There certainly is a power dynamic there that makes it a target-rich environment for a predator,” said Anu Bhagwati, the executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, which has been on the forefront of the sexual assault issue.
According to the Air Force — also known as the most aggressively evangelical Christian of all the branches — it court-martialed an average of four recruiters a year for sexual misconduct or unprofessional relationships since 2008. The Air Force is currently under a massive investigation for the rape and assault of young trainees at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Also in Texas, a Air Force recruiter faces a military court next month on charges that he raped and sodomized and engaged in other crimes with 18 young women he tried to enlist over a three year period.
Of course, given the statistics — there are over 10,000 recruiters in the Army, 6,200 in the Navy, for example — the overall number of incidents may seem small. But tell that to the girls. At Fort Knox, Ky., there were 387 reported incidents (327 “substantiated”) of sexual misconduct at the recruiting level. That seems like a lot in five years.
A target-rich environment for predators. From recruitment up through the officer level, it never seems to stop. The question no one seems to want to ask is whether the military is screening for the kind of sociopathic types that go on to commit these crimes; whether the military is doing enough to combat the institutionalized misogyny that nurtures and protects this “environment” in the first place. Until it does, I suggest young women find another way to “be all they can be,” outside the military. Believe me, if the military wants to fight more wars, they will need the women — they made up some 12 percent of the ranks in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Forcing the military to change by opting out until that happens may be the only way.