WASHINGTON — Although defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lifted a ban on women in combat last week, the military seeks to reassure patriots that the decision will in no way affect military culture overall.
Concern had been raised, especially among conservative policy-makers, that the new program would subvert the longstanding tradition of blatant disregard for the safety of female soldiers from sexual assault. According to the Department of Defense there were over 23,000 victims of rape in the U.S. military.
General Martin E. Dempsey assuaged fear of a responsible approach towards rape victims during a press conference this Monday. After a reporter reminded the general that one in three women serving has been sexually assaulted and that the vast majority of these crimes went unpunished, the general dismissed the issue out of hand.
“Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a huge military cultural change, as some people are fearing. Ladies have been allowed on the front lines for some time now, actually. It’s just going to be official from here on out,” said the general. “But that doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything crazy like ‘stop raping women’ or ‘start prosecuting rapists.’ It’s going to take more than a few female soldiers earning purple hearts for us to start treating women like they’re people.”
Many service members do not report sexual assault because the person to whom they must report it is their assailant. For those who do, the perpetrator’s commanding officer is in the position of deciding whether or not to pursue any action or disregard the claim entirely, a system that has lead to the persecution of very few assaults. While the groundbreaking decision to allow more women in combat roles will undoubtedly increase the possibility of female soldiers being exposed to sexual violence, the military has stated that they have “no plans at all” to address or change military rape culture.