Sex scandals at the Air Force Academy in 2003 sparked several investigations and constructive reforms. Recent surveys indicate that harassment rates have dropped at the military academies. You would never know it, however, because good news is bad news for civilian “victim advocates” seeking more government contracts and jobs.
The report of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment & Violence at the Military Service Academies, released in August 2005, reflected disproportionate influence from professional victim advocates on the panel. A successor task force, already authorized by Congress, could extend the same presumptions and recommendations to all of the services.
The problem is that civilian victim advocates rarely understand or respect the unique legal code of the military, which imposes serious penalties for offenses–such as “conduct unbecoming an officer”–that do not exist in civilian law. Professional victimologists routinely confuse one-sided allegations with substantiated crimes, excuse women of the consequences of their own high-risk behavior, demand punishment even when self-proclaimed victims do not report offenses, and are not satisfied with anything less than courts-martial and convictions, even when guilt is unproven.
The Task Force recommendations in August endorsed radical feminist dreams, starting with gender-based admission quotas to increase “acceptance” of women, even though there is a greater need for male officers for the combat arms. Gender quotas would create a surplus of female officers who will, in turn, demand “career opportunities” in all-male units, such as the infantry. That would mesh with persistent feminist efforts to repeal women’s exemptions from land combat, which the report claimed (without support) contribute to sexual harassment.
Panel members recommended sensitivity training in “prime time,” with grades factored into class standings, and mandatory courses to indoctrinate acceptance of gender-adjusted physical standards, allowances, and special “assists” for female trainees. Never mind that previous academy surveys have identified different standards as a major source of tension and harassment.
The Task Force report listed a wide array of agencies ready to support complainants; and the Task Force operated with what was essentially a presumption of “victimhood” (never a presumption of legal innocence for the accused). It dismissed the issue of fraudulent complaints–perceived as a problem by 73 percent of academy women surveyed by the Defense Department Inspector General in 2004–and barely mentioned the scarcity of legal help for accused offenders.
Defense Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness David Chu supported all but a few of the report’s proposals, which could increase pressure for more troublesome ideas and feminist pork in the next task force’s recommendations. What’s worse, Dr. Chu’s apparent concurrence could be seen as a green light for an Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA) in the Pentagon–a feminist boondoggle promoted in 2004 by the left-wing group Amnesty International.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) sponsored a 95-page OVA bill that failed. The Pentagon nevertheless awarded a contract asking Wellesley College Centers for Women to evaluate “prospects” for an OVA. The Wellesley report remains undisclosed, but Slaughter’s detailed legislation outlined expectations for an Office of Victim Advocate if Secretary Rumsfeld makes the mistake of setting one up.
Sexual assault is always wrong and should be punished promptly at the local level. Acceptance of a self-interested Wellesley proposal to implement the Slaughter OVA bill administratively and incrementally, however, would only create job opportunities for “women’s studies” graduates schooled in man-hating ideology. The Pentagon does not need an OVA operating as an “Office of Male Bashing,” which would serve as a feminist bastion in this theatre of the war between the sexes.
An OVA director in Washington would have license to meddle in distant “he said, she said” disputes that are local and highly emotional. Regular OVA reports on sexual misconduct would feed media prejudices, generating more demoralizing news stories portraying military men as abusers. OVA projects funded with defense dollars would include surveys and summit conferences, reports promoting feminist legislation and U.N. treaties, and proposals for more lucrative grants. “Culturally competent” experts promote each other’s projects in a continuous cycle that is starting to resemble a racket.
Empowered with Defense Department credentials and OVA grants, local victim advocates would enjoy special confidentiality privileges, and handle domestic violence complaints by requesting mandatory protective orders from courts. Counseling to repair troubled marriages would be barred, but a presumptive “offender” would have to undergo “treatment” and sign a release of his personal “violence history” to military commanders and law enforcement authorities.
Service members receiving any type of disciplinary action for domestic violence or sexual misconduct would be denied promotions, and penalties for conviction would include mandatory restitution of court and other costs, regardless of economic circumstances.
The OVA would also promote military-law reforms that would criminalize sexual offenses that are already subject to severe nonjudicial punishment. Perpetrators would be reported to the FBI and labeled sex offenders for life.
The Slaughter OVA bill would have authorized more than $218.6 million in feminist pork over four years, but a single dollar spent on an Office of Victim Advocate would be too much. Secretary Rumsfeld should think about the carnivorous plant Little Shop of Horrors and decline, without apology, to bring a man-eating plant with worldwide reach into the Pentagon on his watch.
–Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that specializes in military personnel issues.