John McCain says women should avoid military service until 'disgusting' sexual attacks have been eradicated

John McCain's remarks about the military ( read here ) are generally respected by both sides of the aisle, as opposed to his willingness to engage in battle just about anywhere.  At the very least, his remarks about the growing and pernicious problem of sexual assault in the military underscore an explosive issue that can no longer be contained.

While anyone can appreciate Senator McCain's sentiment, he's just a little bit off point and his temporary "fix" for the problem is misleading.

First, it would terribly unfair to punish women for the inability of the military to properly police itself. This nation's military is an honorable and reasonable career path for women who might choose to pursue it. Telling them to avoid the military because it's been infiltrated by criminals hardly seems appropriate. Kind of like telling little boys not to go to church.

It's also misleading and myopic to think that this problem only-or even mostly-affects women. More than half of the 26,000 cases of sexual assault in the military last year came from men. Take a moment and think about that.

Sociologists and criminologists would argue that rape is not a crime of sexual urge or passion, but one of control and violence. While I'm sure that nuance offers little comfort to victims of rape, the fact that the military employs a strict chain of command allows for predators of rank to exert maximum coercion.

An unprecedented Senate committee yesterday held hearings to determine if investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes should be removed from the chain of command.  Not surprisingly, the consensus among leaders of each military branch represented was that it should not, that these things are best left to the commanders of individual units.  They say to do otherwise would undermine the chain of command.

At least two high-ranking military personnel in charge of dealing with the problem of sexual assault have themselves been charged with that infraction within the past two months.  One commander overturned a guilty finding in a sexual assault case for reasons which haven't been made clear.  If anything is going to undermine a chain of command, I think we've already seen it.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said that some of the men and women in charge of these investigations didn't know "a slap on the ass from a rape."   While the JAG Corps is generally populated with lawyers, the commanders making these judicial decisions have no real legal training and often base their decisions on the value of the alleged rapist. According to Gillibrand, a man shouldn't be able to get away with rape because he's a good pilot.

As with the pedophile priest scandal that rocked-and still rocks- the Catholic Church, we are dealing with one of our cherished institutions plagued by something of which many of us can not or will not speak; sex. There's a reason that all our "dirty" words either describe a sex act or some part of our bodies in the sex organ region.

What needs to be the bottom line in this little blurb as well as all our institutions, whether it's the military, the Church or Penn State is that sexual assault is a crime and the perpetrator is a criminal. Commanders, priests and coaches are not equipped to deal with those crimes, nor should they be empowered or entrusted to do so.

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