Target: U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta
Goal: Take action against the growing sexual assault and rape crisis in the U.S. military.
The United States military is made up of both men and women. In more recent years, women have contributed in every major military conflict; they have fought and died alongside their male counterparts in battle. And yet, as reported in an altogether shocking infographic published by GOOD magazine, “Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.”
Out of approximately 200,000 total female soldiers serving in 2010, more than 19,000 service members were raped or sexually assaulted; a staggering 79% of this group chose not to report the unwanted sexual contact. The Pentagon reports that in 2008 the rate of rape and sexual attack rose 9%, as almost 3,000 women were sexually assaulted. Of women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, this rate of sexual assault saw a 25% increase from the previous year. It is even estimated that 1 in 3 women soldiers serving in Iraq have been raped by a fellow soldier—twice the rate of the overall population. Even worse, the Pentagon estimates that between 80-90% of sexual assaults are not reported.
Most victims of rape while serving remain silent for fear of ridicule, gossip, being demoted, or the belief that nothing would be done. If a civilian is raped, she can get confidential advice from doctors and lawyers. However this kind of anonymity is not a privilege experienced by servicewomen, as they may only obtain this kind of discretion with chaplains. The notion that nothing would be done if rape were reported is unfortunately quite valid. Astonishingly, in the military only 8% of reported cases of rape end in prosecution, versus the 40% prosecution rate in civilian cases. Of these military cases that end in prosecution, 80% of the men convicted are honorably discharged.
Army Sgt. Andrea Neutzling experienced sexual assault while serving in Iraq in 2005. At the time she chose not to report the attack, but earlier this year she told her story. In 2005, Neutzling was raped by two male soldiers who videotaped the entire assault. When Sgt. Neutzling came forward with her story, she experienced bizarre backlash from the military. “The chaplain said it couldn’t have been rape because I didn’t act like a rape victim, I wasn’t jumpy or upset or crying,” she said. Despite having video evidence of the attack, because she had not reported it at the time of the assault or completed a rape kit, Sgt. Neutzling was told it was simply a matter of ‘he said, she said,’ and the case should be dropped. What’s more, because she was married her superiors told her that since she admitted having sexual relations with the male assailants during the attack, she would be brought up on charges of adultery if she chose to press the matter.
It is a vast understatement to say we have a crisis on our hands.
Please sign below to express your concern about the growing rape epidemic of the women who risk their lives every single day to protect us. Protective measures must be put in place so that military women feel safe coming forward in the event of an attack. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta needs to know the public is watching and fully aware of the situation. After all, what does it say about our nation if we refuse to protect those who sacrifice their lives to protect us?
Dear Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta,
Rape and sexual assault is a growing epidemic within the U.S. military forces. The statistics do not lie:
- In 2010, more than 19,000 service members were raped or experienced sexual assault out of the nearly 200,000 total female military officers; of this group 79% chose not to report it.
- It is estimated 1 in 3 military women have experienced sexual assault, which is twice the civilian rate.
- 80% to 90% of rapes go unreported by servicewomen.
- Of military rape cases that are actually reported, a mere 8% end in prosecution versus 40% in civilian cases; within the military 80% of men convicted of rape or sexual assault are simply honorably discharged.
Women who choose to keep quiet are afraid of ridicule, being ostracized, or being labeled a “trouble maker” if they report an attack—these concerns prove to be completely valid. The current environment makes it so that filing rape or sexual assault charges can be “career-killers” for the victim, not the attacker.
It is high time for military leadership, beginning with the Department of Defense, to make drastic changes in order to protect female officers. Both preventative and reactive measures need to be put in place. We need to see a radical decrease in the number of rapes, but also an increase in the rate of reported cases. Too many military women remain silent for legitimate fears of losing their jobs or facing ridicule from their fellow officers. The military cannot continue to tolerate an environment where this sort of soldier-on-soldier violence is ignored and pushed aside in order to save face.
Please address this escalating issue that so deeply affects the lives of tens of thousands of American servicewomen.
[Your Name Here]