Blog of Rights

What Should Servicewomen Expect? Respect.

By Katherine Clemente, Women's Rights Project at 4:48pm

Last week, the Pentagon announced a change in policy that eased the ban on women serving in combat. This is a heartening step towards ending gender discrimination in the military and giving women who bravely serve our country the credit they have earned.

The announcement, though, was problematic for Fox News contributor Liz Trotta. She explained that women's "wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time" is an issue, citing that sexual assaults in the military have increased by 64 percent since 2006.

Indeed, military sexual trauma statistics are deeply troubling. The ACLU is committed to holding government agencies accountable for how they investigate and respond to sexual violence in the military. Trotta, however, utilized this data to assert that there is, in fact, a "difference between men and women" in the military, and that women should "expect" to be raped while serving in close contact with men.

Trotta explained that "feminists" have directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to "spend a lot of money" for "sexual counselors all over the place" for "women in the military who are now being raped too much." These remarks stand in stark contrast to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's statement at a press conference last month: "One assault is one too many." Panetta said that DoD will revise its policies addressing sexual assault in the military, emphasizing that reducing assault and providing adequate care to victims would be a top priority.

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We agree: We cannot tolerate sexual assault within our ranks.. Sexual assault in the military is an ongoing crisis, and no serviceman or woman should ever be blamed for his or her victimization. Military sex crimes go consistently unreported, as survivors fear retribution and stigmatization. Veterans face enormous hurdles in obtaining medical care and disability compensation connected to sexual assault. DoD should not be criticized for the support it provides to sexual assault survivors, when there is still so much work to be done. Our veterans deserve more support – not less.

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