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Rape Culture in the US Military

The only part of the “Flush Rush from AFN” campaign that makes any sense at all is the claim that Limbaugh’s show could contribute to a hostile culture for female service members, especially those who’ve been sexually assaulted.

The problem of sexual assault in the military is a substantial one. It is predominantly seen as a crime perpetrated exclusively by men and the victims are overwhelmingly female. During my own years of service, the only sexual assault victim and perpetrator I knew were both males. In this case, the victim broke the offender’s nose and, since we were less than 24 hours from redeployment, command considered the situation “handled.”

Whether individual expression—either artful or like Rush’s show—contributes on their own to rape culture is a discussion for another time. Yet, anything can contribute to rape culture in a certain atmosphere from jokes to movies to songs and even talk radio. What allows the culture to persist though goes far beyond any entertainment.

The recent bill passed in the Senate reforming the process by which sexual assault crimes are reported and prosecuted drew criticism from some because it left “control” over those cases in the hands of the military. A competing bill that failed to pass sought to take the cases out of the military’s hands entirely, a fair request.

Military command has long faced accusations that they try to sweep sexual assault under the rug or are even the perpetrators themselves. Not to diminish anyone’s personal struggles, but the military situation was a true rape culture where victims were blamed and rapists remained free from consequences, where victims were driven out of service and rapists were promoted.

Thankfully, the bill that passed does protect victims against such blatant mistreatment and the very focus on the issue of late is changing the culture, in terms of reporting these crimes. Also, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel urged male victims to step forward and report what happened to them. Male victims comprised 14 percent of victims last year, a figure Hagel believes is far too low. This focus on justice does far more to change the culture than the removal of any radio program.


Photo via USAG Hu

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.