Friday, December 2, 2011

Rape Culture Backfires

Guest op-ed by blogger Elusive Wapiti:

In this even-handed and balanced news article, we can see that rape culture does indeed generate sufficient political pressure to do something, anything, about rape. But what price appearances for politics sake? For in the end, rape culture of this sort harms the real, genuine victims and manufactures more victims by obscuring the relationship between risky behaviors and sexual assault, all while wasting scarce resources and unjustifiably branding men with the scarlet "R":
McClatchy's review of nearly 4,000 sexual assault allegations demonstrates that the military has taken a more aggressive stance. Last year, military commanders sent about 70 percent more cases to courts-martial that started as rape or aggravated sexual-assault allegations than they did in 2009.

However, only 27 percent of the defendants were convicted of those offenses or other serious crimes in 2009 and 2010, McClatchy found after reviewing the cases detailed in the Defense Department's annual sexual assault reports. When factoring in convictions for lesser offenses - such as adultery, which is illegal in the military, or perjury - about half the cases ended in convictions.

The military's conviction rate for all crimes is more than 90 percent, according to a 2010 report to Congress by the Pentagon.
. . . .
Making acquittals even more likely, the military is prosecuting more contested cases under a controversial law that broadens the definition of sexual assault. Under the 2006 law, the military can argue that a victim was sexually assaulted because she was "substantially incapacitated" from excessive drinking and couldn't have consented.
. . . .
"There is a pressure to prosecute, prosecute, prosecute. When you get one that's actually real, there's a lot of skepticism. You hear it routinely: 'Is this a rape case or is this a Navy rape case?'"
Analyzing the numbers in the graphic at the top of the linked article suggests that the tens of millions spent on forcibly implanting a rape culture in the Defense Department hasn't appreciably changed the data much, at least when compared with the civilian sector. According to the data presented, an individual rape and/or sexual assault accusation will result in a courtroom conviction 7% of the time. Including those who resign or accept discharges in lieu of a trial boosts "conviction rates" to almost 10%. Which, incidentally, is the going conviction rate for an individual rape/sexual assault allegation in the UK (could not find reliable figures for the US).

Now it is true that those accused can accept non-judicial punishment in lieu of a court-martial, and that option does muddy the analysis a bit, for we do not know if those fellows were punished non-judicially for rape/sexual assault or some other infraction surrounding the accusation. It would also seem to me that if the government had any kind of a case, in the face of all that rape culture pressure to prosecute, that the government would not offer or accept offers of non-judicial punishment in lieu of court-martial.

So I wonder: is inculcating a rape culture in DoD worth all that extra money, unneeded aggravation and decreased morale, additional broken women, more unfairly tarred men, and no appreciable change in the conviction rates? If not, then why bother?