Target: U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Michael Miller
Goal: Immediately apologize to rape victim, and hand over authority in further case handling.
A 21-year-old female Navy midshipman who has accused three former football players at the U.S. Naval Academy of raping her at a party has been treated more like the criminal than her alleged rapists during the handling of her rape case. She has been forced to continue school with her attackers, suffer harassment due to her coming forward that has gone unpunished by the Navy, and endure 25 hours of hostile cross-examination on her allegations. In the 25 hour questioning, she was berated about how she gives oral sex, what she was wearing, how she likes to dance and how much she drank. This type of victim-blaming is unacceptable and only condones the rape culture in the U.S. today. On top of that, the U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Michael Miller has gone so far as to make public comments that he is unhappy about publicity being received because of the case. Mr. Miller’s handling of this situation is inexcusable. By military law, it is up to him to deciding if the case will go to court-martial. Due to his obvious bias and complete lack of compassion towards the victim or the situation, he needs to be immediately removed from power over this situation and replaced with someone who knows how to handle victims of sexual violence.
Sexual violence in the military has been a problem for a long time, but in recent years its becoming more and more apparent. The male-dominated, hierarchical system of the military that prides itself on strength and power severely inhibits victims of sexual assault in getting justice. The culture is one that makes it difficult for any victim to come forward, and then shames and blames them, instead of placing the blame and ostracizing the perpetrator. In addition to the culture, the way the military’s legal system is set up gives those in the chain-of-command much more power over cases than normal prosecutors and defense attorneys have in the normal U.S. judicial system. Being sexually assaulted and dealing with the aftermath is hard enough without having it happen in the U.S. military, which makes it close to impossible.
“A confidential Department of Defense survey found that there were 26,000 incidents of sexual assault in 2012 though only about 2,610 of them were officially reported and about 238 were prosecuted.” This recent estimate is more than a 19,000 increase from 2010, and is deeply concerning. Three of the recent high-profile sexual assault cases have actually involved military personnel that were in charge of sexual assault prevention programs, and they themselves were the perpetrators. President Obama has spoken out on this problem that is always being brushed under the rug, and has said that the culture towards sexual violence needs to be changed. In May, he spoke out and said he would “leave no stone left unturned,” and that the way to resolve this is begin by holding everyone accountable in the chain of command, commanders need to empower victims to speak out, and punishments of perpetrators need to be swift and certain.
Rape culture is alive and well in the US, and those tasked with dealing with these very sensitive matters need to be people that are trained and experienced in these matters to avoid injustice in our system. The unnamed 21-year-old midshipman that was raped and continues to be mistreated under U.S. Naval Academy’s superintendent Michael Miller should cause outrage, and needs to be put to a stop. He clearly should not be in charge of her fate in this case, and should feel ashamed for how he has treated her. Demand he turn over his authority in this case to someone who can make decisions in an unbiased manner, make swift moves to halt the continued harassment by her abusers, and apologize publicly and immediately to the victim.
Dear U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Michael Miller,
As you must know, sexual assault is a huge problem in the military at this moment in time. The Department of Defense estimates that about 26,000 instances of sexual assault occurred on military personnel last year alone. As the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, this should deeply shock and bother you that your own peers are treating other human beings in this manner.
However, your treatment of the 21-year-old midshipman who has accused three of her peers of raping her while she was at an off-campus party shows that your behavior is part of the problem that continues the rape culture in the military. When a young woman comes forward with testimony that she was assaulted by three separate men at your academy, her story should be met with comfort and compassion, not 25 hours of cross-examination. She was repeatedly questioned about how she gives oral sex, how she dances, what she was wearing, and how much she drank, which are all questions that lead directly to victim-blaming in our society.
The answer to all of these questions are completely irrelevant, because none of these questions answers the most important one: Was she able and did she willingly consent to these sex acts? Just because a woman dresses up pretty, attends a party where she is enjoying herself with a few drinks and dancing with her peers does not mean that she asked to be raped by three men.
You should be ashamed at the way this case has been handled, and how a young female student of yours has been and continues to be treated. Your energy should to be concentrated on the perpetrators, and ensuring they are punished and removed from the Naval Academy. This type of behavior should not be accepted by any officers in the United States of America, and should not be excused by blaming the victim. I urge you to publicly apologize to the victim, and recuse yourself from further involvement with this case, and find an educated specialist that can be put in charge of sexual assault cases in the future.
[Your Name Here]