As pressure mounts on officials to do more to prevent sexual assault in the U.S. military, Donald Trump has stunned experts by suggesting that the real cause of sexual assault is the integration of women into the armed forces. Speaking at a candidate’s forum, Trump insisted he was “absolutely correct” when he asserted via Twitter in 2013 that the high number of sexual assaults in the military was the result of “[putting] men & women together.”
“We couldn’t run a military without women,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pointing out that any argument suggesting that the mere proximity of women to men caused sexual assault could also be used to argue that women be removed from college campuses and workplaces — where women also face attacks. “Quite frankly,” said Graham, “it’s absurd.”
Retired Colonel Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force, said that Trump’s comments not only construed “victim blaming,” but also near complete ignorance of both the data and of military history. While the integration of women into combat roles is a new development for the U.S. military, women have served alongside the armed forces since the Revolutionary War and have seen their roles, and numbers, increase dramatically since WWII. Furthemore, not all the victims of sexual assault are women. “Over half the victims are men,” Christensen noted, citing a 2014 Pentagon report.
The Republican nominee’s proposed solution to the problem — the creation of a military justice system to deal with sexual assault, also confused experts who said that such a system had in fact been in place since 1774. “George Washington beat him to it!” said Senator Graham, a former military lawyer.
According to statistics released in May 2015 that have been endorsed by the Pentagon, fewer than one-third of sexual assaults in the military are reported. Of the women who reported sexual assault, 62 percent said they faced retaliation for doing so.
Read the full story at The New York Times.