Gillibrand: “Not every commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape”

A powerful state from Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual assault in the military.

Gillibrand lectured the military command on the fact that “not every commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.”

Kirsten-Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Of course the military isn’t the only problem.

The Senate Armed Service Committee is doing all it can to stack the deck against women in the military.  Take today’s hearing, for example.  The Armed Services committee normally invites 4 witnesses, on average, to a hearing.  Today there were 20.  And lest you think they invited more because they care so deeply about sexual assault against women, think again.  18 of those 20 witnesses were there to testify against taking strong measures to address the problem.  Only 2 of the 20 witnesses on this Democratically-controlled committee were there to defend the reform proposals.  And of those 2, not even one was a sexual assault victim.

So, while I’m sure the military commanders are a problem, their overlords on the Senate Armed Services Committee aren’t doing women in the military any great favors either.

Wash Post:

“You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases,” Gillibrand said. “They’re afraid to report. They think their careers will be over. They fear retaliation. They fear being blamed. That is our biggest challenge, right there.”

Later, she suggested that part of the problem is that “not every commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape” — a blunt assessment of how well the military is tracking the issue.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • lynchie

    But while strong on women’s issues continue to vote for SS and Medicare cuts, Hillary is Bill 2 and Obama squared.

  • iamlegion

    It’s one of the most basic psychological concepts: you get the behaviour you reward. Reward people who _fix_ problems instead of punishing those who have (or worse yet, call attention to) problems, and things can change.

  • d3clark

    I had the same thought. Also, if they classify it as a sexual assault, then there’s an investigation, paperwork, maybe someone form on high comes to check on things, the media might get involved. Much neater to just ignore it. And, as in a lot of sexual assault cases, it goes away because the victim gives up.

  • jharp

    Kirsten sure is a lovely woman. And tough. And smart too.

    I like her a lot.

  • RyansTake

    Our best Presidential prospects in the Democratic Party are women! Hillary is the most popular, but Gillibrand and Liz Warren are two of my favorites, especially Liz.

  • Drew2u

    Were it not the top brass who were the main opponents to the repeal of DADT inside the military?

  • cole3244

    if civilians could see the military from the inside (as i have) the respect would go down exponentially.

  • Naja pallida

    That’s why there is a command structure and a judicial system. If a complaint is reported, it is supposed to be sent up the chain of command, then senior a officer takes it to the the JAG office, which investigates and makes the decision on what course of action should be taken. At no point in time should anything regarding reported cases of assault be handled by one’s immediate superiors. They aren’t qualified to do it, and it isn’t their job anyway. The problem is, the command structure of the US military is completely broken. The rank and file soldiers don’t trust their officers, nor even their NCOs, to do what is right, because the commanders more often than not either punish the victims for coming forward, or otherwise quash the complaint before it ever even gets to the point of being investigated. It’s a ridiculous and untenable system that has destroyed unit cohesion and broken down the entire chain of command, and rendered the UCMJ impotent.

  • lynchie

    If someone else is put in charge they lose control of who gets punished

  • iamlegion

    The headline is really all you need to know. There’s no magic wand that gets waved over someone who gets selected for a command billet that makes them suddenly aware of and able to sagely handle sexual assault in their units. There are a lot of characteristics that get weight in selecting a commander, but “recognizes sexual assault & handles punishment appropriately” is not a checkbox on any list, for any billet, in any service. Period. They’re just not fucking qualified to deal with this kind of issue.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    Based on my experience and observation only, I would say a big part of the problem is that the military has never really come to terms with the reality that women are “real” members of the military, necessary and vital and here to stay. There is still the mind set that the women are there to do the admin crap the guys don’t want to do and to serve as pseudo “comfort women” (in no way am I denigrating the real horror of comfort women – no flames, please)

  • MyrddinWilt

    I think John nailed it when he pointed out that the witness list is 18 military brass who all oppose changes to stop harassment and 2 civilians who are the only two supporting the proposals.

    This is obviously not intended to go anywhere right now. So they put the brass out there to put their feet to the fire but not too much. Because it would never do to hold the US military accountable for anything they do

    Putting the brass up there might wring out some concessions from them. We are going to have to see what pledges they make and whether any are kept.

    Another possibility is that they will pull a Tabacco CEO or a Tim Cook and make an impassioned and entirely delusional denial that there is any problem.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    Every woman can, however.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    The institutionalized misogyny throughout the U.S. military is a group-think skepticism as to whether women should be allowed to serve at all. And that if a woman is raped, she must’ve done something to make it happen. (This latter detail isn’t restricted to the military either…)

    Combine this with the fascist-style trooper worship in American society and the degree to which hyper-masculinization and macho posturing is encouraged within the military culture itself, it should come as no surprise that the animal male Id is given priority over integrity, respect, and good discipline.

    We need only examine how often the victims who dare to report being assaulted or raped are then hit with retaliatory punishment.

    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/rape-victim-retaliation-prevalent-in-us-military/1123247/0

    It’s actually not that hard, as Nicho says below, to tell the difference between a friendly ass-slap (which can, by the way, easily cross the line into sexual harassment if the ONLY ass ever being slapped is some female soldier’s and the guy doing the slapping is her superior officer) and a rape. The problem as has been identified is the response — which has clearly been not to deal with this as a criminal matter, but as a situation where the victim is all too often accused of lying and is then on the receiving end of harassment and disciplinary measures.

    So far as I can tell throughout this entire sham of a legislative oversight process, the DoD has said nothing about how it plans to deal with this epidemic of rape in its ranks (which, btw, I think is directly due to the erosion of the rule of law and our permanent wartime footing). Only that they don’t want anybody else to be put in charge of the job they refuse to do properly.

  • nicho

    Yes, they can, Senator. They just don’t want to. There isn’t a thimble full of integrity in the entire US military leadership.

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