Reporting Sexual Misconduct

“This isn’t about sex,” Sen. Claire McCaskill,  but about “crimes of domination and violence.”

The Intervention of the Sabine Women by David, 1799

I am semi-speechless about the reports of sexual violence against women in our military. And yet, while it might be hard to talk about, it’s not so hard to write about it.  As Senator McCaskill said, it’s not about sex.  Some of the boys are not happy that the girls have joined their ranks.  The same thing happened to clergywomen years ago.

Women were first ordained to professional ministry in my denomination in 1956 and, if you want some crazy stories, talk to a woman who has been ordained for 50 years or more.  I have a friend who is among the Matriarchs of my clergywomen colleagues and she reports that there was never (she said never) a church meeting, a church retreat, or a church conference when a male colleague did not try to make a pass at her, invite her to have a liaison, or crack an inappropriate “joke.”  By the time I was ordained, it didn’t happen every time I went to a church event, but it happened often enough.

It was assumed – among some men – that if we (women) were there, then we (women) were ostensibly available.  It was not about sex.  It was about control and domination.

Those days are (usually) over, but our sisters in the military apparently have to deal with this currently and exponentially – especially considering that their commanding officers might be the offenders.  Military culture – like church culture – is hierarchical.  Reporting a “superior officer” might result in punishment for the accuser.

We have a part to play as regular citizens in this military misconduct mess.  We can share our outrage.  We can talk with our military friends and family members.  But mostly, we can train our sons that women are not objects to be dominated.  Women are not objects to be controlled – even in hierarchical systems.

To our daughters, we can teach them that they are created in God’s image just like the guys.  We are more than our private parts.   We were not created to live in a man’s shadow.

God bless the women who speak up at their own peril.  And may we pay attention to this issue.  We pay their salaries.

Image is The Intervention of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David (1799)


3 responses to “Reporting Sexual Misconduct

  1. The way sexual misconduct is treated in the military is a real black eye on our history and our present. I have a close family member who was a military spouse for years and the stories she knew of would curl your hair.

    But I gently disagree with you about your statement that those days are over for clergy. In my experience, they are not. Not by a long shot. [Insert hair-curlin’ stories here.]

  2. Sadly you are right. I like to be Pollyanna about this, but it’s true. There is still misconduct happening at clergy events. (I’m talking to you, drunken guy at recent conference.)

  3. This is not even close to new in the military. My dad served as a psychiatrist in the military for over thirty years; he retired more than a decade ago. He was dealing with this issue for his entire career. Service women in WWII were raped, and often by being ordered to submit as part of their “military service” to senior officers. It has been reported more in recent years, and the tensions about sexual interactions (some of which were related to DADT) have also increased and have not been well managed. The issue must be addressed culturally–we must redefine masculine as rape-averse rather than rape-tolerant. (I would be stronger with that last term, but I try to give the benefit of the doubt.)

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