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16Apr/120

CNN Reports: Military Kicking Out Rape Victims

Feministing reports on a CNN news story that women in the armed services received diagnoses of personality disorders, which got them discharged from their respective branches, after reporting that they had been sexually assaulted.

The gist of it is this, a woman reports a sexual assault.  Shortly thereafter, when she tries to get medical and mental health treatment, she gets diagnosed with a personality disorder and administratively separated from whatever branch they're in.  Now, to explain a bit of the military and mental health terminology: a personality disorder is viewed by the military and the medical profession as something that pre-exists before the time that someone is old enough to enter the military.  Generally, these types of disorder develop early on.  So the military views this as pre-existing, and says that you shouldn't have signed up for the military in the first place.  That means you forfeit benefits under the G.I. Bill, have to give up any recruitment bonuses, and because these personality disorder are "pre-existing" conditions and not related to injuries sustained during the time the women are in the military, they don't get VA (Veterans Affairs) benefits for them.

So, in case you can't tell, this is a particularly pernicious form of discrimination.  You have people who complain, kick them out!  It's an extremely effective way of getting rid of the original "problem" of the woman who reported the rape and discouraged future reports.  And while Feministing and CNN are reporting ably on it, I wanted to comment a bit about what I think it reflects in society.

We, as a society, don't like the idea that women can be raped.  It's scary, it's horrible, and we like to forget that it happens.  There's a lot of ways we do this.  One, is that we overly stress the frequency of "stranger rape" as opposed to acquaintance rape.  And then we push towards women these ideas that they can "prevent" rape by taking safe practices when walking home at night and things like that.  And while I'm not saying those are necessary bad practices, they are not practices that will protect you from the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults, which are committed by persons who know the victims.  Other ways we do this is by saying that women were "asking for it" by dressing certain ways, having certain body parts, and things like that.  The message we try to say is that women whom are raped aren't "normal" -- they did something wrong.

It's comforting in many ways.  If I check so-and-so boxes, do certain things, dress a certain way, I (woman) will be alright.

This is the same thing that the military seems to be doing.  Maybe it's not the "you shouldn't dress a certain way," or act a certain way (though I bet that's part of it), but they're pathologizing rape victims.  "You were raped, so there was something wrong with you before this happened."  And moreover, something that should have kept them out of the military to begin with!

That's comforting in the same way some other rape prevention strategies are.  It's a way to get women to think, "I don't have this disorder, so rape can't happen to me" in the same way that prevention strategies like "If I don't dress a certain way, I won't be raped."  Of course, that's not true: women are raped because someone raped them, not because of something they did.  And the military, by not only abrogating their responsibility to help these women and prosecute their attacks, commits a horrific injustice against them and society, but also actively hurts these women, by destroying their careers, denying them adequate care, and pathologizing them as victims of crimes.

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