Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Military Rape: The Epidemic Persists

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Military Rape: The Epidemic Persists

Article excerpt

Imagine that robbery was rampant in the military.

Imagine that in 2011, some 3,000 robberies were reported, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that number was seriously underestimated, that it was as many as 19,000 robberies per year.

Imagine that in many parts of the military, robberies were part of the culture, and efforts to do something about it never seemed to work.

If there were so many robberies, something would be done about it, obviously.

But now quit imagining. Replace the word "robbery" with "rape." And the facts are disturbing.

America's military has an epidemic of rape and sexual assault, but it continues despite military leader statements that something is being done.


It even happens in battle sectors. At least 20 percent of women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced sexual abuse, reports the Veterans Administration.

It's so bad that women in the military are more likely to be raped than to be killed in action.

Rape often involves a crime against women, but men are affected, as well.

A lawsuit filed by 28 military service members accuses the Defense Department of violating their constitutional rights.

That's not the half of it, however. As described in the lawsuit, victims often are doubly victimized, accused of various violations such as fraternization or even adultery in return for filing charges.

What's worse is the lawsuit was initially dismissed in U.S. District Court because rape was called "incident to service." Really? Would robbery be considered "incident to service," an occupational hazard?

The story is told not only in the lawsuit but in a documentary that puts faces to those names titled "The Invisible War," which was shown recently at the University of North Florida.

The documentary shows the heartrending impact on women and a few men who gave their full commitment to the military, were brutally raped and then saw nothing much done to their abusers.


Paula Coughlin is a Jacksonville Beach resident who has helped to build a national movement to restore a sense of justice in the military. She was the whistle-blower who reported massive abuse waged against women during annual Navy conventions called Tailhook.

The stories told by victims of sexual abuse in the military are painful because Americans put the military on a pedestal. …

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