Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Help Servicewomen Who Are Victimized

Did you know that members of the United States military cannot get an abortion at a military hospital--even if the pregnancy is the result of a sexual assault? I didn't. As Darlene Iskra over at Battleland writes:

Most rape victims are junior enlisted women who cannot afford an abortion in the civilian sector. Enlisted earn less pay, and often come from families who cannot afford to help them. If they are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, they cannot get an abortion in country and must return to the United States, if they can convince their commands to let them go. Then they must pay for the procedure itself. The policies are stacked against women who are raped and become pregnant. Congress is the only organization that can change this scenario.
Even more embarrassing for our government? This restriction is not across the board, "U.S. servicewomen remain the only federal workers denied coverage in cases of rape. Even federal inmates can get abortions." I find it unacceptable that we have thus far failed to end the culture of sexual violence that seems to be especially dominant in the military and then when the people who are victimized by this system seek help, they are denied. 

[Discussion and how you can help after the jump.]

If you find this as appalling as I do, sign the petition over at StandWithServicewomen. This petition is asking for the Shaheen Amendment to be passed. This would allow military insurance to cover abortion costs in the case of rape and incest. Until we fix the culture and system that are failing these women, I feel the least we can do is to not compound the problem by forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies.

And in case you didn't know the military was failing its servicewomen, here's a reminder. US military policies marginalize women, treating them as second class service-people which leads to a culture of rape. Helen Benedict at NPR reports:

Some soldiers and commanders show their hostility by undermining women's authority, denying them promotions, or denigrating their work. Others show it through sexual harassment, assault, and and rape (of which there is a shockingly high rate in the military). These problems occur throughout the military, on US bases all over the world, as well as at war.
In 2003, a survey of female veterans found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving. And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed.

People around the victims insist they should probably shut up if they want to have any kind of career in the military. That part isn't really a surprise, since service-members who do come forward are classified as having personality disorders and discharged. In case you missed that one, David Martin at CNN gives a recap:

CNN has interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard, who tell stories that follow a similar pattern -- a sexual assault, a command dismissive of the allegations and a psychiatric discharge.
In FY2010, there were 3,158 total reports of sexual assault in the military.  The DODAnd the kicker? The military knows this is a problem and still has yet to correct the issue. For instance, the Service Women's Action Network published the Pentagon's own results:

In FY2010, there were 3,158 total reports of sexual assault in the military. The DOD estimates that this number only represents 13.5% of total assaults in 2010, making the total number of military rapes and sexual assaults in excess of 19,000 for FY 2010.

To be fair, senior military leadership is trying, but in my opinion they ought to allow for treating the symptoms (including unwanted pregnancies) until the instance rate is 0. That means there is a VERY long way to go. 

And finally, here is this for all of you. In case you find yourself confused. I know it isn't military specific and that the rapes in the military seem to be less date-rape-y and more resent-rape-y based on the anecdotes I have heard, but I still appreciate the thought. (Please read all pronouns as applying to both sexes. People of all genders suffer rapes and assaults.) I'm not sure if this is the original since I've seen it posted so many times, but:

1. When you meet a girl who doesn't want to have sex with you, don't have sex with her. 

2. When you meet a girl who wants to have sex with one of your friends, remember the golden rule: You Are A Different Person To Your Friends. Maybe this handy mnemonic can help: Yentl Acted As Ducks Probed Three Yucky Frenchmen. This will help you remember that a girl who wants to have sex with one person does not necessarily want to have sex with every person she meets. Confusing, I know; what can I say - political correctness, etc. 

3. If you meet a girl who DOES want to have sex with you, but then a bit later she says she'd rather not, don't have sex with her. Again, pretty confusing, I know, but it's due to a special Scientific Fact: sometimes girls change their minds. Like, remember the time you wanted a kebab, but then you thought no, I'll have a hamburger instead? It's a bit like that, only with sex.

4. When you meet a girl who is unconscious, don't have sex with her. This is true even if she was drinking before. I may be delving into some fairly arcane theory here, but scientists have discovered there is actually technically a difference between "drinking a lot of alcohol" and "saying yes I want to have sex with you". I realise this difference is probably hard to spot for a lot of you guys; you might have to squint a bit. 

5. When you go home with a girl, try not to have sex with her until after she says she'd like to. 

6. Practise not having sex with people. I know it's hard - sometimes you just look down and it's like, whoops, I'm having sex with this girl, how did that happen? But I bet with a bit of concentration and discipline, you can actually manage to avoid having sex with someone, even when they're in the same room as you. It's true! Anyone can do it! Why, last week I met at least five women who I actually didn't have sex with, without causing myself any particularly severe internal injuries.

7. When you meet a girl who doesn't want to have sex with you, don't have sex with her. I realise I already said this one, but that was five steps ago, and I have a feeling some of you guys might have slightly short attention spans.

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