It is often that I doubt whether or not I truly wish to spend four years of my life here at West Point. The reasons are varied, but the one constant motivator that I have to stay is so that I can be part of the solution to all the issues that I see here. Sasha has been kind enough to give me an avenue to speak out.
Some of you may have seen or at least heard about the recent CNN prime time special, Betrayal of Trust?, about the recent rape scandal in the US Military Academy. The specifics of the allegations set forth by these two former cadets and the current lawsuit will not be the main topic of this article. What concerns me is the Corps’ reaction to the whole situation. I can count the number of people I’ve talked to who aren’t victim-blaming on one hand. One of them isn’t a cadet.
This is what I hear:
“She should have known better.”
Should she have? How? This argument is based off her plebe (freshman) status at the time. The alleged rapist was a firstie (senior). The idea is that because the firstie male was asking her to his room to drink, she should automatically assume that he intends to get her in bed, and that her foot inside the door implies consent to sex.
First, this is insulting to men everywhere; as if we are incapable of anything but lust. Second, why is it her responsibility to divine his intent? She’s suddenly supposed to be able to read minds? Is it her job to never ever enter a man’s room without planning to get naked? Or should she actively mistrust every male — 85% of the students at the Academy?
“I knew her/was in her company; the alleged rapist is my buddy.”
This is brought into the discussion as if it somehow makes their opinions all the more valid. Unless they were in the room at the time, they have no more inside information on the situation than say, the old lady who lives down the street from me.
“She’s a slut!”
A woman’s ability to enjoy sex does not make her less believable when accusing someone of rape, nor does it make her a “slut.” I don’t care if she’d slept with thirty upperclassmen before this one incident. The bottom line is that she did not want to sleep with this one and he forced himself on her.
What really gets me about the people here is that a large portion of the arguments against the victim I hear aren’t even to say that she wasn’t raped. They are trying to say that it is somehow her fault. The rape culture here at West Point and in the military is not being addressed properly. Sure we have SHARP training (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention), but this does little to change the perspective of the ranks. Even if the various PowerPoint slides, lectures, and video presentations adequately addressed the issue, it would do little as SHARP training is viewed as just another mandatory duty to get out of the way. It is taken seriously by very few, and those who do see it as they should are not the ones who need the training.
I think the Army is starting to move in the right direction with how it treats these cases but it still has yet to address the issue. We need to concentrate more on keeping those 19,000 cases from happening in the first place, and that starts at the level of junior leaders. Until the culture here at the academies is changed, all we are doing is pumping more of these people into the ranks of our officers.
These issues are not exclusive to the academies or even the military, but as members of the armed forces we claim a moral ground above and beyond what the normal citizenry claims. It’s about time we started acting like it.