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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Response to Colonel Elizabeth Robbins’ Poor Explanation of the Military Rape Problem

The following is a post by Staff Blogger, Jen McClendon.  This is her response to an article written by Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Robbins posted 13 June 2013 in The Washington Post.  Jen's rebuttal was refused by The Post.  I'm happy to publish it here. As always, Jen's opinions are her own and don't necessarily reflect those of the One Weary Soldier... but in this case.... yes, they do.  Drive on, Jen.  I love you, Sister.  You rock!

The best way to avoid correcting the military rape problem is to call rape in the ranks anything other than a byproduct of privilege and rape culture. Red herrings, straw men, and flack screens have been protecting rape culture from public scrutiny for generations. The next best thing to directly blaming the victim is indirectly blaming the victim.

Several women and men in uniform think that rape will never happen to them because they are stronger, smarter, or somehow more cautious than the women and men that are raped. If a victim is strong than they must not have been raped. If the victim is weak than are they guilty of failing to avoid rape.

If there are only two avenues home and a rapist awaits a soldier on both avenues home and the soldier is raped while taking avenue A than there is no way of knowing whether they were also doomed if they had taken avenue B. When we point the finger at the soldier that took avenue A home and was raped we chip away at the guilt of rapist C by presuming that avenue B was safe.

Statistically the odds of never being raped are better than the odds of being raped. If a Lieutenant Colonel has not been raped this is a good thing. The question is whether their caution or their strength protected them. Could luck be a component?

There are several fallacies at play in victim blaming. One fallacy is that strong women and strong men are not raped. We may call this the fallacy of “I’m too tough to be raped.” The cause of rape is not being attributed to the presence of a rapist. We ignore rank, fatigue, firearms, and other weapons that have nothing to do with alcohol when we assert a strength fallacy.

The “Strong Woman” fallacy is dangerous. If you are strong and you are raped that strength might be a liability in prosecuting the offender. The general public knows about gang rape. Does the military brass?

We teach Rape evasion the same way that we teach influenza evasion. If we do not wash our hands of the flu virus and our bodies do not fight off the invasion then we are likely to get the flu. In rape training we all but ignore washing the rapist down the sink with the flu virus.

Rape survivors along with the parents and loved ones of those people that were lost to rape and murder or rape and suicide understand the complexities of getting a conviction. We are not stupid and we are not crazy. What we do not understand is why we are not attacking rape culture head on. We waste time when we hold the victim more accountable than the rapist?

Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Robbins describes herself as strong, physically fit, and presumably safe from rape. I am pretty tough too. I was an E4 and a teetotaler both times that I was raped. Are we going to address inequality or blame alcohol? What about the "RHIP" (Rank Has It’s Privileges) song? I won a base triathlon between my two rapes. Both rapists had rank and gender privilege and both times that trumped my strength.

Today, nobody holds rank over me and I have not been raped. I am physically fit and I feel that if I defend myself I will not be charged with a crime. Rank is the most toxic weapon in military sexual violence. Rank overpowers strength and caution.

If we follow the colonel’s logic than those men and women that were raped on active duty merely failed to keep themselves safe. Perhaps they should have known better. Implicit in the writing of Colonel Robbins is that many of the people that were raped in the military were guilty of poor judgment. I encourage the colonel to revisit that opinion.

Implicit in the public discourse on rape is the language of victim blaming. Air Force General Mark Welsch, asked why junior personnel did not “Turn to their chain of command on the worst day of their lives.” This is why!

Some women and men were raped in their barracks rooms. Several women and men – to include this very strong woman - were raped while on watches in isolated ship spaces and while completely sober. When you are low in rank following orders in the workplace lest you face conjured charges of imagined crimes then might have trouble making the “Right choices” in the context of rape prevention.

We have to address power as a problem or we will drop another ball on this matter. We need to talk about the RHIP song. Rank is the most potent rape drug.


  1. Thanks Jen for such a well written response!! I'm very sorry they wouldn't print it, but it's not such a surprise knowing the powers that want to keep this as shut down and blame the victims as much as possible.

    Not one of my fellow sailors were drunk when they attacked, beat and raped me, repeatedly from the time I was 17 till when I got out at 21. Nor was I ever drunk when the attacks happened.

    They were however my superiors in rank. All 4 of them. From a pilot to a machinist mate, to the two sea bees. I was an e-2, they were Officer, and 2nd and 1st class petty officers. 3 of them were my bosses who set my schedule and were best buddies with the Chiefs in charge. I will say that some of them were drinking buddies, but more then that, they all hated women in the Navy and were power hungry. They GOT OFF on torturing pool girls who they knew they held captive by the 'powers that be' in their favor. If we talked or tried to press charges, we'd be humiliated and laughed out of the military due to our 'borderline personality disorder'. I watched a few crash and be burned and ridiculed on their way out the gate.

    I knew of a few attacks from people drinking to be sure, but the vast majority was from power corrupted sick asshats. And THAT was the reason, NOT because of alcohol.

    Dang.. this shit is sill piling up... when is it ever going to end???


    .....offended that this was not allowed to be published by the Washington Post; that's bullshit. This is reality, and it's time it was faced instead of swept under the rug.


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