I have been a proud employee of the US Navy for more than 39 years. Right now, I am not feeling so proud.
Last week, as I sat through Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Training (SAPR), I became increasingly agitated. The stated mission of this training is:
“Prevent and respond to sexual assault, eliminating it from our ranks through a balanced of focused education, comprehensive response, compassionate advocacy, and just adjudication in order to promote professionalism, respect, and trust, while preserving Navy mission readiness.”
…and the stated vision of:
“Promote and foster a culturally aware and informed Navy respectful of all, intolerant of sexual assault, and supported by a synergistic program of prevention, advocacy, and accountability.”
[Bolding is mine]
As you are probably well aware, there has been an Article 32 hearing ongoing at the Washington Navy Yard concerning a female midshipman who says she was raped by three male midshipmen. An Article 32 hearing is like a grand jury hearing, but, unlike a grand jury, it is not closed, and attorneys for the defense can question witnesses. This hearing has shown that the SAPR training is a lie!
Over 5 or so days, this young woman was brutally interrogated by the defense counsel, who were allowed to ask questions about her drinking and sexual history, questions that would not have been allowed in a civilian court. According to the Washington Post, “They asked her to describe how wide she opens her mouth during oral sex. They asked her if she “felt like a ho” the next morning.” It was obvious that their intent was to blame the victim. (See these columns by Petula Dvorak and Ruth Marcus for details) In allowing this line of questioning there was no evidence at all of the Navy taking care of the victim.
Did this young woman show bad judgment? Yes.
Did this young woman drink way too much? Yes
Did this young woman have consensual sex during the party? Yes
Did all this make it OK for three other midshipmen to have non-consensual sex with her, i.e. rape her, while she was passed out? No, No NO!
I would think that someone in the Navy who is sexually assaulted, would look at this woman’s treatment during this hearing and probably choose to not report their assault. Reading about the questions that were asked, this young woman was essentially raped again, this time verbally. Who would want to put themselves through that?
I find the hypocrisy in all this deeply disturbing. Yes, sexual assault is a serious issue, but making SAPR training mandatory is not the real answer. The Navy should start to walk-the-walk rather than just talk-the-talk; otherwise, how can anyone, especially a victim, believe what the Navy says and take it seriously.