Mad Men mores ran rampant at today's military sexual assault hearing. From the commanders still defending the commanders on whose watch service members were raped to draft deferred noncombatant Saxby Chambliss (elected by attacking war hero Max Cleland) claiming that military rape was due to the hormone level created by nature, it was clear to see why this epidemic festers.
This military rape epidemic festers because of the old Mad Men mores of the 1950s in which casual sexism and violent rape were swept under the rug by survivors rightly fearful of slut-shaming and victim-blaming and by commanders willing to look the other way when a friend stood accused still linger today.
This military rape epidemic festers because rape is treated as an inevitable form of hookups and hormones -- a profound misunderstanding of modern science that proves rape is a crime of power not sex. Indeed blaming "hookup culture" last month or "hormone level" today suggests that we are passive in this epidemic -- that it is not humanly possible to teach men not to rape. Nothing could be farther than the truth: Millions of great men walk our streets and protect our country with good values and respect for women.
This military rape epidemic festers because the commanders and their enablers among the service chiefs continue to stubbornly cling to power rather than to admit that if they believe they are powerless to change human nature -- if they truly believe that rape is inevitable -- then they cannot effectively prosecute rape.
This military rape epidemic festers because it truly is a cancer -- and like every patient with cancer, the military needs a specialist. The legislation that the service chiefs oppose -- Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act that seeks to reform prosecutions by removing them from commanders heretofore unwilling or unable to pursue them -- is just what the doctor ordered.
The American people are far ahead of the military commanders and apologist politicians on this one: We know rape is rape and we believe that a person's right to be free of sexual assault does not end when he or she dons the uniform. To the contrary, we vest our military with great power and responsibility. Millions of military heroes besmirched by thousands of military rapists know that today's hearing wasn't good enough.
At stake in this debate is not merely the fate of thousands of military sexual trauma survivors seeking advancement in the ranks or benefits for PTSD as veterans.
At stake is this debate is not merely the careers of those courageous survivors who spoke out in The Invisible War documentary about their victimization by assailants and re-victimization by the military command.
At stake in this debate is no less than the character of our country. Are we a nation that enables our servicemembers to be raped by their peers or aren't we? Most of us say no. As Senator Mark Udall said so eloquently: "We ask a hell of a lot from our troops -- but I refuse to ask them to put up with rape."
In their wisdom, our founders made us a nation of laws not men. Though forged in war, we are a country purposely ruled by civilians not military. So what comes next? The commander in chief and the Secretary of Defense simply must step in and modernize the mores and the procedures of the greatest military in the world. Rather than give lip service to victims and continued power to victimizers, the leaders must remove commanders from convening rape prosecutions. And if the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Commander in Chief Barack Obama cannot or will not make this decision unilaterally, then we the people through the Congress must do it ourselves.