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Chastity Belts

Disclaimer: The follow piece does not necessarily represent the views of Maryland NOW, Maryland NOW PAC, its officers, or members.

By Victoria Brown

Atholton High School, Columbia, MD Class of 2015

My fellow high school graduates will be heading off to college soon, and if they’re going to the Naval Academy, they’d better pack a chastity belt. In the past few days, stories have been pouring out about women being sexually assualted by athletes, boot camp instructors, and most ironically, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the head of the Air Force’s program to prevent sexual assaults. Now maybe, just maybe we would all feel better about sending our women to military academies if these crimes were being taken seriously and properly investigated, if only.

The most recent story is of a young woman who was sexually abused while she was drunk. The next morning, she and her friends learned, courtesy of social media, that three football players had raped her. Now, days have passed after the allegation, and still no charges have been filed. In fact, the woman has been punished for drinking, but the three male players? They’ve gone through this entire ordeal unscathed.

Once again, maybe I could let this incident go if this kind of behavior was uncommon or new; unfortunately, it is neither. Women have been sexually assaulted in the military for years, and most of the time it’s never reported. The Pentagon has just released some alarming statistics. Last year about 7% of women in the military experienced “unwanted sexual contact” and since there are approximately 214,000 women in the military, 14,980 women have been abused. Now out of those women, only about a third had the courage to file a report. If the women manage to report it, most of them experience retaliation (62%), and only 10% of the reports result in conviction.

One of the major reasons why most of these atrocities don’t result in conviction is self-interest. The young woman’s lawyer, Susan Burke asked why “justice in military sexual assault cases be placed in the untrained and biased hands of commanders whose own career interest may be served by covering up incidents like this one?” Quite frankly, she has a point. If a man beats his wife, we don’t expect her husband to bring her to the hospital or bandage up her wounds. Similarly, why should we expect the assailants to bring themselves to justice?

There was a time, long ago, when women were protected, but now we evolved and learned to protect ourselves, for the most part. However, that does not mean we should have to shield ourselves from our teachers, classmates, and people whose job it is to stop sexual assault. These women commit their lives to protecting our country, and upholding our freedoms. And how do we repay them? We look the other way when they are sexually abused, tell them it’s their fault, and promote their attacker to colonel. We are told by politicians, the media, and families of soldiers to “Support Our Troops”. Now is the time to stand behind the women who have been mistreated so they may have the courage to speak out, and the strength to fight for justice.