Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is taking aim at the rape culture and that means taking aim at the status quo. What better way to do that than by reminding her colleagues that it is actually their job to oversee the Department of Defense instead of enabling rape by playing the Phony Patriot Deference Game. Naturally, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) dismissed her because she doesn’t have experience commanding the military.
While defending her legislative proposal from detractors like McCain, Senator Gillibrand declared on “This Week” that it’s actually their job as Senators and Congressional members to oversee the Department of Defense.
This is their job even if they are not experts who once commanded the military, which is not a qualification for being a Senator.
GILLIBRAND: Well, it’s been an interesting process, because what we learned is, having the bright line of elevating all serious crimes out of the chain of command, makes sure both victims’ rights are protected and defendants’ rights for civil liberties reasons, that you need fairness and justice.
Because what we’ve got, Martha, 26,000 cases of sexual assault and rape last year alone.
RADDATZ: But let me go to — you yourself said those 26,000, you don’t know whether they’re the difference between patting someone on the bottom or rape. So if you have those kind of statistics, and they’re even worse this year, but you don’t really know what the data is, how can you make recommendations?
(Note to Martha Raddatz: “Patting someone on the bottom” is not a good way to exemplify sexual assault. Please see the rape culture for further explanation for why minimizing sexual assault by equating it to a pat on the bottom and assuming that many women would exaggerate in their anonymous reporting is part of the problem. Women as a group are not hysterical liars any more than men are.)
GILLIBRAND: We do know the data. This is from the Department of Defense. This is their estimate, not my estimate, their estimate.
RADDATZ: But they don’t know as you yourself have said.
GILLIBRAND: Agreed. But Martha, what we do know, the 3,000 cases that were reported, 70 percent were violent, violent rapes and sexual assaults. And even more disturbing, of those 3,000 cases that were reported 62 percent of the victims were retaliated against.
So, what we have is a system where the command climate is so broken that if you are raped, you are likely going to be retaliated against for reporting that rape.
How do we shut this down and return to the ever so successful status quo? We let John McCain tell Kirsten Gillibrand that she has no experience or background because he was in command.
RADDATZ: I want you listen to some of the opposition here, and there is a lot of it, including from some very decorated veterans. Listen to what Senator John McCain said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I’m the only member of the United States Senate who was actually in command, okay? And I respect Senator Gillibrand’s views and her advocacy, but I do not believe that she has background or experience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Do you have the background or experience?
GILLIBRAND: I do. And I respect and admire and am good friends with Senator McCain. But our job as senators and members of congress is the vital constitutional responsibility of providing oversight and accountability over the department of defense. It’s actually our job. And I am the personnel subcommittee chairman. This is my job.
No, Senator Gillibrand, you are supposed to defer to the expert on commanding the military when discussing rape policies. Get it? You are not an expert like they are.
Of course Gillibrand pointing out that it’s their job to oversee the DOD won’t go over well with the patriarchal status quo, and that is precisely one reason why the rape culture is so out of control in the military. No oversight for them because they are SPECIAL and only other people in command understand how special they are.
It is exactly this problem that Senator Gillibrand is trying to solve with her proposal (Military Justice Improvement Act), which differs from Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) proposal in that it removes the military commanders from control over prosecutions.
Gillibrand’s one change is to remove the decision to prosecute from the commanders and place it with independent, trained, professional military prosecutors. This is unacceptable, say many in Congress and the military.
An example of why Gillibrand’s proposal is necessary if we actually want to address the rape culture would be former Coach Joe Paterno at Penn State. Agendas reign supreme in all institutions, and the powerful silence the powerless. The resulting situation is a perfect recipe for a thriving rape culture. In the age of the Internet, it serves the institution to do all that they can so that they are not easily seen as enabling rape, but the old school can’t get over their hero worship quite yet.
Rapes have such a low prosecution rate that even with an independent prosecutor, the likelihood of a successful prosecution is exceptionally low.
According to Senator Gillibrand, the DOD panel and the highest-ranking female general in the military support her proposal, in addition to numerous veterans groups, women’s organizations, Members of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, task forces on violence against women, and more.
This is not good enough for Senator John McCain, who thinks that the policy on rape should be made by people who are experts in war, not experts on how to hold rapists accountable. Why? Because he is a war hero with experience commanding in the military (which has nothing to do with being a rapist, knowing how to inhibit rape, or being a rape victim) and therefore rape advocates should hush. And that’s how we play Patriarchal Systems Enabling Rape with Hero Worship (see Penn State and the Catholic Church).
I doubt military strategists call in the folks at RAINN when they want to forge military strategy, so perhaps they ought to let advocates/experts on rape and violence against women dictate policy on rape. Just a thought.
*Definition of ‘Expert’: having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.