Posts Tagged ‘due process’

Rapes in the Military

June 17, 2013

I’ve been following this story, and it’s time for me to comment.
I don’t know the facts of any individual case, but I’ve been a soldier. Twenty one years, as a matter of fact, now retired.
And now senior officials, politicians and some uniformed politicians, all are wailing and gnashing their teeth and probably beating their breasts to a chorus of mea culpa.
It’s not at all what the media would have you believe.
Not just the military that has a problem with this; I was duty officer when a rape occurred in the barracks, in Germany, and I reported the victim’s statement, took other statements, all the things I was expected to do. But because the victim was a German national, the two rapists (soldiers) were tried in German courts. And found not guilty, because the traumatized victim had not wanted to wait for police, she had just wanted to go home. So after initial reports were taken, I drafted a driver from the unit, gave him my keys, and he drove her home in my car. I had no grounds to keep her there and simple humanity made me understand that I would only make matters worse if I insisted on her remaining. FWIW, my CO concurred in my decision; I informed him, made a recommendation, and he concurred.
And because she hadn’t waited for the police to arrive (they didn’t get there for six hours or more), that was enough. A German court released the two rapists despite the physical evidence that I, and the unit commander, had collected after he arrived.
There was no question that we’d attempted to subvert justice in any way. Indeed, the Polizei were quite complimentary about the actions we’d taken. They were understanding and even friendly to those of us who had done the investigations we’d done.
It’s not as straightforward as reports would have you believe, and military officials who have to follow due process aren’t really sweeping things under the rug in nearly as many cases as media reports say.
The fact that the victim says she reported an incident and nothing happened doesn’t make it so. Sometimes, the story she tells later isn’t the one she told initially. Sometimes the evidence doesn’t support her story. Or there is no evidence. Sometimes when due process is followed and evidence is gathered according to rules, those rules don’t support a charge or conviction. And of course, sometimes justice isn’t done and coverups probably do happen.
But it’s not always black-and-white as to which course of action should be followed. Reports to the media don’t have to follow the rules of evidence that a court demands.
Do you really think every complaint to civilian authorities or police results in a charge or conviction of rape or sexual assault? What percentage of rapes that get reported to your local police go to court? How many of them result in conviction?
Based on what I’ve read, I’d guess that military officials are just as efficient as civilian authority in most cases. Even when, as in my case, we’ve never been trained to act as cops. We act as best we can while applying our best judgment. And no one, not the Supreme Court even, can do more than that.
But somehow, military officers or officials are held to a standard of perfection. If a civilian woman doesn’t get the justice she demands in a statement to the local TV station, do people demand the mayor and chief of police resign or be convicted of dereliction of duty?
Nonsense. That only happens if the officials are military. Civilian women cannot blame the mayor if he fails to protect them, but military women CAN and DO blame a commander for just that failure. Different standards apply due to differences between civil and military organizations and authority. Few if any recognize that fact. Certainly no media organization or reporter will ever include that in their report.
I think this needs to be explained. I am not condoning any misbehavior that might occur nor any effort to conceal anything. Certainly not. But before you issue a blanket condemnation, you should know what the facts are, as much as any nonparticipant ever can know.
Journalists will do that, the blanket condemnation. They have a vested interest in sensationalism.
But the rest of us should think first.
We owe that to our military, the same ones who interpose themselves between our enemies and our citizens. We have a duty to them just as they have a duty to us.