Last night soldiers reported on the brutality of sexual assault from their commanders and fellow soldiers and the aftermath of their pain on WTTW's documentary on Women in Combat. It was appalling to discover that an estimated 500,000 women who have risked their lives in combat for our freedom returned safely from battle, only to have their lives devastated by rape from fellow soldiers - many of whom were identified as serial rapists. The systemic cover up sounded dreadfully similar to the long-standing Catholic Church scandal that involved moving pedophiles from one parish to another, allowing more and more lives to be ruined.
President Obama's new call to end the charade in which the military has engaged for decades is long overdue. Calling sexual abuse "unpatriotic" only scratches the surface of a system in need of reform and of more women leaders. When commanders are given authority and oversight for all aspects of their soldiers, they lack accountability. Their own incentives and rewards influence "justice." A long-standing culture of entitlement cannot be changed through finger wagging or great training programs. The entire structure requires an overhaul, from the top down.
In my book, Mapping a New Reality, I wrote about the systemic business culture that promoted sexual harassment in the workplace throughout the 80's. It was not until Anita Hill's testimony to Congress regarding Clarence Thomas's character when he was being considered as a Supreme Court nominee that his sexual advances became public. While these facts did not deter his nomination, they did change the marketplace forever. From that point forward, lawsuits would make sexual harassment unprofitable for companies. It was a pocketbook impact that spoke the language of the marketplace and made the transformation possible.
It is time to make public all the gender inequities in our global community. Now Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Kerry Washington and Cate Blanchette all contribute their voices to a new film out called Girl Rising that tells inspiring stories of how girls from around the world - India, Afghanistan, Egypt, Peru, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia - who have been sold, abused and/or deprived of their basic rights are rising up and reclaiming their power. The film awakens us to the 66 million girls who do not have the right or access to education.
I highly recommend you buy a ticket to the screening so that this film can be brought to your neighborhood theater.
For leadership to be effective on this post-2012 planet, humility and position power must become integrated partners, and women become full partners in all that life has to offer.
Let's invest our attention and energy in ensuring our daughters and granddaughters can take their place in life, knowing they are safe and therefore can contribute their highest potential.