I’ve been researching. Ever since PBS offered me the opportunity to be part of the POV blog Regarding War, I’ve been researching. Women’s roles in the military. Statistics. Facts and media reports.
What I find is astonishingly upsetting. There’s allegedly an 8% prosecution rate of rapes in the military compared to a 40% rate in civilian cases. 1 in 3 military women are alledgely victims of sexual abuse or harassment but are too embarrassed/ashamed/afraid to speak up. There was an increase in 2008 of 165 rapes reported in Iraq compared to 131 in 2007.
So as I research, I wonder.
What if I’m wrong? What if the military that I serve in really is misogynistic and anti woman and hiding a multitude of sins that I don’t see because of my rank or simply because it hasn’t happened to me? What if commanders are incompetent and leaders are failures all around me and women really are victims in an organization they wanted to serve in and be thought of as equals?
I don’t believe this but the research I’m finding disagrees with my experience. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience and I know that rapes and assaults occur in the military and I also know that there is significant doubt facing women who come forward, especially if alcohol is involved. But is it ‘rampant’ as one congresswoman says? Is it prevalent so much that nearly every woman interviewed for books on Iraq and Afghanistan say they’ve been harassed, assaulted and marginalized as a result.
I find the media reports stunning and shocking and all the more so because it does not reflect what I’ve seen. And I’ve been in a diverse set of units. I’ve been in a Patrior Battalion. I’ve served at a Division headquarters and a test directorate. I’ve served in signal battalions and in a brigade combat team. Short of being assigned to a combat arms battalion, I’ve run the gauntlet of assignments and I just don’t see it. I’ve served as an equal opportunity representative, where I saw first hand the kind of complaints that come through the EO channels, complaining of bias based on rage, gender, or religion.
And still, I don’t see the military that is reflected in the media. But still, the seed of doubt has been planted. So as I go through this journey of writing for PBS, I’m growing and learning, not only as a woman but as a soldier as well. I can at least see the difference between what the media reports and what happens on the ground but I’m seeing things in a different light.
I have to say, I did not expect blogging for PBS to change my point of view. To an extent it hasn’t but at the same time, it has. Because I wonder now.
What if I’m wrong?