Yesterday, the Air Force imposed what it calls a “wingman policy” requiring its trainees at the Lackland base in San Antonio, Texas, to be with at least one classmate at all times. The move comes in response to an Air Training and Command investigation that identified 23 instructors on the base who had allegedly raped, sexually harassed or had “unprofessional relationships” with 48 trainees.
Lackland trains all Air Force recruits, [Bloomberg reports.] (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-14/wingman-rule-to-curb-sex-abuse-is-adopted-by-air-force.html) So far, five officials have been convicted in court martials on charges ranging from adultery to rape and others could face criminal charges.
Of course the epidemic of unpunished rape within the U.S. military—and the routine silencing of and retaliation against enlisted survivors who dare to report it—isn’t new. Due in large part to the release of the Academy Award-nominated “Invisible War” documentary, the sustained activism of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and several high-profile class action civil suits filed against former and current Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Leon Panetta, the issue has captured headlines. In April, the Pentagon made several changes to its dysfunctional sexual assault protocol, such as extending evidence retention for 50 years and granting service-people who have been assaulted immediate transfers so that they don’t have to report to or interact with their attackers while the crime is being investigated.
These shifts are the bare minimum.
In 2010 alone, there were at least 19,000 intra-military sexual assaults, according to the Defense Department. Further enhancing the trauma, there remains a ban on military insurance coverage of abortions even in the case of rape and incest.
I haven’t seen sexual assault reports broken down by race. What I can say is that a disproportionate number of servicewomen on active duty are black. They make up a whopping 31 percent of the active-duty population compared to the 15 percent they comprise in the general population. (Fifty three percent of women on active duty are white, compared to 78 percent of female civilians.)
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