Is Rape a Hazard of Military Service?

The Associated Press reports, “Sexual assaults in the military are a growing epidemic across the services and thousands of victims are still unwilling to come forward despite a slew of new oversight and assistance programs, according to a new Pentagon report. The report says that of the 1.4 million active duty personnel, 6.1 percent of active duty women — or 12,100 — say they experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, a sharp increase over the 8,600 who said that in 2010.”

Do not confuse unwanted sexual contact with sexual assaults. Unwanted Sexual contact is defined as any non-consensual sexual contact, such as touching or fondling of breasts, buttocks, genitals or other sexual/”private” parts. Sexual assault is defined as any sexual activity involving a person who does not or cannot—due to alcohol, drugs, or some sort of incapacitation—consent, and rape may include partner or marital rape.

And unwanted sexual contact and/or sexual assault is not the fault of the victim.

However, there is an explanation for the increase is sexual assaults in the military and it has to do—in part—with the following facts. From 1973 to 2010 the number of active-duty enlisted women in the military increased from about 42,000 to 167,000—a 400% increase.

In addition, the 1991 Gulf War was the first major military deployment where female troops were integrated into almost every military unit, except for combat ground units—this brought more women into daily contact with men suffering from combat induced PTSD.

The increased number of women serving in the US military; integration into almost every military unit and increased numbers of deployments to combat zones leading to more combat induced PTSD explains the increase in sexual assaults in the military.

Why would more combat veterans with PTSD lead to unwanted sexual contact and/or sexual assault?

The Huffington Post reports, “Combat veteran with PTSD were more likely to commit crimes. … A 2009 study of enlisted combat Marines with at least one deployment demonstrated that those with PTSD were six times more likely to be busted on drug charges than Marines without PTSD, and 11 times more likely to be discharged for misconduct.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs says PTSD and alcohol use problems are often found together and alcohol can make PTSD symptoms worse. … If you have a drinking problem, you are more likely than others with your same sort of background to go through a psychological trauma. You may also have problems getting close to others. You may have more conflicts with those people to whom you are close.

In addition, “Alcohol and drugs dis-inhibit people,” says Paul Rinaldi, associate director of the Addiction Institute of New York City.” Source: CBS News

And Helen Benedict writes in her new book “The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq—one of the symptoms of this disorder (PTSD) is uncontrollable violence (including increased incidents of rape).” Source: Womens

In conclusion: knowing the cause of this crime is not an excuse for the increase in sexual assaults in the US military, but knowing the cause offers possible solutions. One solution might be to remove military women from combat units and away from veterans—still serving in the military—who abuse alcohol/drugs while suffering from PTSD. Another solution might be through education, intervention and counseling programs for both women and men raising awareness of the problem along with methods to avoid or deal with it.

By The Numbers:

The Air Force has the highest percentage of women: 18% (11,665) are officers and 20% (51,614) are enlisted. In 2012, 790—1.2% of women serving in the Air Force—reported sexual assaults that include women and men.

Army: 15.5% officers (13,560) and 13.2% (59,672) enlisted. In 2012, 1,423—1.9%—reported sexual assaults that include women and men.

Navy: 15.1% (7,769) are officers and 15% (41,294) enlisted. In 2012, 726—1.5%—reported sexual assaults that include women and men.

Marine Corps: 5.8% (1,172) are officers and 6.2% (11,049) enlisted. In 2012, 435—3.6%—reported sexual assaults that include women and men.

Coast Guard: 14.9% (1,212) are officers and 11.6% (3,854) enlisted. One in three women as well as many men in the Coast Guard is going to fall victim of sexual assault and rape. Sources: Daily and Slide

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Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
is the award winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition].

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.

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14 thoughts on “Is Rape a Hazard of Military Service?

  1. Relationships strain in many ways in military life. With a growing number of female soldier’s as this article highlights, it can even be a starting place for love interests. Either way, I don’t have the belief that a war zone is any place for any relationship; even voluntary. This is a sad hazard you have raised and one that I’m sure is growing in awareness. Thanks for posting.

    • You are welcome.

      “Either way, I don’t have the belief that a war zone is any place for any relationship; even voluntary.”

      I agree. It would be stupid to rape an armed women in the US military in a war zone because there’s this thing known as friendly fire. I saw this sort of thing in Vietnam and those were cases that were not even related to the horror of rape. In my unit alone, we had one lifer non-commissioned officer who had to be sent home early and under armed guard, because there was a price tag on his head due to the way he treated the other troops under his command. Then we had a warrant officer who had his tent fragged when he was showering down the hill. We know he got the message because his treatment of the troops under his command—I was one of them—changed 180 degrees overnight. One day he was a jerk and the next day our best buddy.

      Therefore, if the rape takes place in a combat zone, and the victim is in the same area as the rapist, then the victim could seek swift justice with a round to the back of the head of the rapist. When all the troops are in a combat zone and armed, justice may arrive very swiftly with no warning and without any need of lawyers or the courts.

      Second, if the relationship is voluntary—in a combat situation where the lovers are both there—emotions between the two lovers might lead to a bad decision causing the deaths of others and even the two lovers.

  2. Important post, Lloyd, thanks. Our government’s apparent refusal to medically treat and support our troops while in-theater and on their returns, coupled with their refusal to honor the terms of enlistment as to longevity of service, etc., etc. is a direct contributor to criminal violence. Wars of decision and opportunity create the need for a limitless supply of cannon fodder. Our society’s decision to send increasing numbers of young men and women into active military service rather than make sure they can find jobs at home is appalling, and an equal contributor to lawlessness among the ranks. If we question whether women should serve, we’re in effect blaming them for the violence perpetrated upon them by sick soldiers. It’s long past time for the pentagon to take some responsibility here, as our legislators are unable to even confront the issues.

    • Thank you. Did you see this one about a GOP Senator who took credit for an Anti-Rape Law that he voted against?


      Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) was one of 22 Senate Republican men who voted against renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.

      And here’s more news on this subject: WASHINGTON, Apr 9 2013 (IPS) – The new U.S. secretary of defence, Chuck Hagel, pushed Monday for reforms of the armed forces’ judicial code that would roll back an archaic provision allowing high-ranking commanders to overturn military court verdicts, a move that would particularly impact on cases involving sexual assaults.


      Then there this that came out on May 7: The Military’s Rape Problem Is a Lot Like Everyone’s Rape Problem. The military’s problem is not that it’s filled with high-testosterone dudes. It’s that it’s a massive bureaucracy. Woman-dominated higher education has the same problem. A 2010 study by the Center for Public Integrity found that when women report sexual assault on college campuses, they are pulled into a confusing administrative process that can make the victim’s life very unpleasant and result in no consequences for students found responsible for sexual assaults … Judging by the statistics, the military doesn’t have more rapists, it has more bureaucrats who fail to punish rapists.


  3. I am happy about that friendly fire incident, because it sounds like that particular soldier was fighting for the wrong team to begin with. And that group power is a fortunate way to keep people like that in check. But that wouldn’t help people being individually targeted and are too embarrassed or scared to come forward to other troops. As you said though with both parties being armed, I don’t think rape between two serving soldier’s would be as common. Raping a villager in a town, more common. I have gone over a year without being in a relationship. I can tell you that I didn’t die! So being ‘lonely’ deployed is really no excuses for starting a relationship. The emotions really need to be left at home regardless of attraction.

  4. The Atlantic piece has it spot on. With more females joining the gender ratio is soon going to balance further. But I’m certain that the cases of rape will not as well. In government there is money and power. That’s where lot of wars will begin. Yet the people fighting the war are rolling in money and power. It’s a cycle and I’m not sure how we could stop it…

  5. June is PTSD Awareness Month – PTSD Issues Specific to Women | Veterans Disability Blog

  6. I reported sexual harassment early in my career, but there are no records of it because the “investigations” were his word against mine. After five years of therapy, I finally had the strength to file for compensation. I loss wages due to be reassigned, and/or harassed into transfers I would not have applied for otherwise. Compensation was denied due to lack of evidence. If I were in a wheel chair, my handicap would be obvious. Instead, I have trouble focusing at work, have to force myself to leave my house to do errands on my days off because I am often irrationally afraid of things I used to enjoy. MST sucks, but it is worse to have to relive it over and over as I try to “prove” what is in my head is a daily struggle. I understand why so many commit suicide. That must be what the government officials want – they don’t have to pay out a dime if we’re all dead.

    • Hillary,

      I think you are suffering from PTSD. My PTSD comes from Vietnam and combat. Yours is much more traumatic—I think. Rape is a horrible experience for anyone to suffer and survive.

      Between 1966 and 1981/82, I locked the PTSD inside my head and never talked about it or wrote about it and it controlled my life and was slowly destroying me.

      Then I started to open up and write about it. We will never get rid of the experiences that caused the PTSD, but I think we can manage the PTSD if we are willing to face its ugly truth. I suggest you write about your experiences anyway you want to: in a private journal, a Blog, a book, short stories (fiction or nonfiction), etc.

      You know the truth. You may never be able to prove your side of this tragedy in a court of law (after all Lady Justice is blindfolded and can’t see the truth.), but maybe you can control the PTSD and move on with your life with less anguish for how your personal space was physically violated.

      Even today—forty-seven years after having been in combat—I sleep with a weapon kept close that is easy to reach, and I am always alert and watching for dangers—at least I hope I am.

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