Skeptical of Victims: My shame (1 of 3)

Disclaimer: please let me know if I use any strange jargon/slang that isn’t listed on the page and I will correct it.

I read an article recently discussing why progress against sexual assault in the military is well, not progressing. The article states

“But data show that while 40 percent of civilian sexual-assault allegations are prosecuted, “this number is a staggeringly low 8 percent in the military,” according to a statement from Reps. Niki Tsongas (D) of Massachusetts and Michael Turner (R) of Ohio.”

Bolding emphasis is mine, and I honestly have no trouble believing that, and when I came across the following paragraph I knew why:

“It points to a military legal system that, despite years of scrutiny and efforts to improve, remains skeptical of victims of sexual assault and reluctant to bring offenders to justice, critics say.”

Skeptical of victims. Only too true. I have three cases where I was an active observer of sexual harassment/rape allegations. And every time I was immediately skeptical of the victims. It’s taking a bit of soul searching to get over my guilt as I remember these things, and I would just ask you to withhold judgment on my actions until this series is done. I am reporting the truth was I perceived it, including my own clouded perceptions.

The very first incident occurred right in the middle of boot camp. The way boot works… well worked, it’s been many a year since I was there so things may have changed. But I’ll give you the short version of how boot camp worked.

Man, the memories

More men than women join the Navy. I can’t locate some hard census information, but on my first ship I was one of the first 10 female enlisted personnel ever on board. And since e there are more males than females joining, out of necessity in boot there are all male divisons and mixed divisions. A division would be roughly 90 sailors. So for the mixed divisions it would be 45 female, 45 male.

In all male divisions the one division shares a whole berthing. Since us females are all in coed divisions we share our berthing compartment with another female division. These separate divisions, or groups, are staggered so we don’t all show up at the same time. Near the end of boot camp we had a new division sharing the berthing with us. I remember teasing them often, as we were by the previous senior division over us.

Now in Boot you have three RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders) in charge of a division. They are in charge of making civilians into sailors, AKA babysitting. Typically you have two firsts and then a chief as the three RDCs.

Alright explanation over, here’s what happened: In our sister division there was a female, probably around 18 years old like most of us. I remember her as appearing pretty in the traditional sense, delicate features, slim limbs, etc. Her attitude was anything but attractive, as she had a expressively snarky attitude with everyone… except the RDCs.

Now she wasn’t in my division, and I only had that vague understanding and impression of her character. My division returned to the compartment one afternoon to find the other females of the sister division huddled together and whispering. I immediately made my way to them and attempted to find out what had occurred.

Not this sort of fishbowl

Their RDC chief was gone! He been removed from the team and replaced. The girl from before came forward with the following allegation against him: She said she had been called into the fishbowl to speak to the Chief. After some short chit chat he dropped a pen on the floor and demanded she bend over to get it for him (sounds familiar, huh?). She refused, and he repeated the demand. She left the room and went to report the incident.

Now I don’t know this girl from Eve, but I immediately didn’t believe her. What did I base my belief on? The way she was aloof and rude in my previous conversations with her. The snickers and snide remarks from the other females that she was a slut. Everyone’s assertions that the Chief in question was an awesome guy and it would have to be impossible for him to do any such thing.

Hey. Maybe I was right. Maybe she did make it up. But maybe she didn’t. And I’m honestly ashamed that I immediately leapt into the Victim Skepticism stance. I let everyone else’s assumptions on her character and my few brief encounters with her cloud my judgment. And that’s where victim blaming and shaming starts.

 

Part Two

Part Three

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About feministsailor

Lots of shitty sexist things happen to me in the Navy! So I’d like to tell you about it. Also, I curse like a Sailor. Sorry if that offends you.
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