The Magazine

Harassing the Military

There is no sexual assault crisis.

Jul 8, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 41 • By GAIL HERIOT
Widget tooltip
Audio version Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Indeed, some charge that in the military’s zeal to placate its critics, it is now going too far. “[T]here’s this myth that the military doesn’t take sexual assault seriously,” said former Army judge advocate Michael Waddington. “But the reality is they’re charging more and more people with bogus cases to show that they do take it seriously.” Similarly Bridget Wilson, a defense attorney specializing in military law, told the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, “There is an increasing perception that the deck is stacked against someone accused of a sexual assault.”

This is especially so in cases in which two service members have been drinking and engage in seemingly consensual sex. These days, in the military’s view, he’s guilty and she’s an incapacitated victim. Civilian authorities usually shun such cases.

Indeed, it is cases like that that caused a female prosecutor who wished to be anonymous to comment to McClatchy Newspapers in 2011, “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?’ ”

One thing is certain: The military’s top brass is now desperate to convince Congress that it takes sexual assault seriously. On June 4, a supplicating Army chief of staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “combating sexual assault and sexual harassment within the ranks is our No. 1 priority.”

The military is a large and complex institution with many priorities. But only one can be No. 1. If combating sexual assault and sexual harassment is the military’s No. 1 priority, that means defending the nation from foreign aggression is not. It’s time to sober up.

Gail Heriot is a professor of law at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers