Hook-ups might be stupid, but they are consensual.
“To dismiss violent rapes as part of the hook-up culture shows a complete lack of understanding,” a fiery Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York told me. “We’re not talking about a date gone badly. We’re talking about criminal behavior by predators who often stalk their victims in advance.”
The hook-up comparison was especially jarring in light of the release of a stunning Pentagon study estimating that 26,000 men and women in the military were sexually assaulted in the 2012 fiscal year, a 37-percent increase from the same period the year before. Only a small number of incidents — 3,374 — were reported, showing that victims are still afraid of payback or perverted justice. And a mere 238 assailants were convicted.
Wired.com reported that troops at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina were issued a brochure advising potential victims of sexual assault that it might be more “advisable to submit than resist.”
It was the sort of rare confluence of events that can actually lead to change here, especially because it’s a nonpartisan issue and because the Senate looks very different than it did during the Thomas-Hill hearings. Three of the six Senate Armed Services subcommittees are now led by women.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a former prosecutor who is one of seven women (five of them lawyers) on the Armed Services Committee, has held up the nomination of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms to be vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command until she investigates why Helms overturned a conviction in a sexual-assault case.
“You don’t get to decide who’s telling the truth and supplant the judgment of the jury you handpicked if you weren’t in the courtroom observing the witnesses,” McCaskill said. “You’ve got to put systems in place where you catch these cowards committing crimes and you put them in prison.”
The military brass cossetting predators are on notice. The women of Congress are on the case.