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Refusing to rape
As an international and multiracial network of men working with the Global Women’s Strike, Payday has been campaigning with refuseniks: women and men around the world who refuse to torture, maim, rape or kill for the military, or to be raped and killed in the military.
Refuseniks and their families have made it clear that men in uniform are trained to kill without question. Stephen Funk, the gay American marine who was the first to refuse publicly to fight in Iraq, said that having to shout, "Kill! Kill!" as he was trained to slash with his bayonet, made him realize he had to leave the military.[i]
And because it’s not instinctive for humans to want to kill – only 2% of soldiers willingly shoot to kill[ii] – the world's governments invest a lot of money brainwashing the other 98% into the madness of becoming murderers.
“Once killing is acceptable, rape is hardly a moral problem…”[iii]. Everyone knows that soldiers are encouraged to use rape as a weapon of mass destruction of souls and bodies of entire communities. Those who find inflicting sexual violence acceptable set the macho standard that others are goaded to live up to.
This training in violence is felt at home as well as in barracks:
o One third of male veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder attack their partners.[vi]
o Thirty percent of women veterans in the US reported sexual assault during active duty.[vii]
o In the 1991Tailhook scandal, more than 100 officers at a US Navy convention sexually assaulted and harassed dozens of women. (Not one of the offenders was convicted.)[viii]
o More than one in every 100 male former US soldiers, sailors and airmen treated by the Veterans Agency reported having been sexually "traumatized" by peers or superiors during their military careers.[ix]
o At Deepcut army barracks in the UK, there have been no convictions over the deaths of four young recruits. A training instructor at Deepcut was convicted in 2004 of five sexual assaults on young male recruits in 1992-7. In the course of the investigation other young servicemen and women began to speak about the sexual violence and humiliation they had suffered, which was never dealt with.
There is more information about rape and sexual assault in the US military because there are more women in the army, and therefore the movement against rape is stronger, but we presume that a similar level of assaults happens in the UK.
The rape of men in the military is gradually becoming known: the ex-US Marine Andrew Schmidt is campaigning for civilian rather than military authorities to investigate complaints of sexual abuse in the military, and for compensation.[x] He was sexually abused several times by fellow marines. When he tried to report it, he was met with silence, threats, slander and beatings. He said “my chain of command physically abused and hazed me as well as threatened my life, job, and threatened to send people after my mother to ‘beat and rape her because you can't keep your mouth shut about it’."
Mehmet Tarhan, a Kurdish gay conscientious objector, imprisoned for 11 months for refusing the draft in Turkey, has launched a legal action against the torture he suffered in military jail. The army wanted to exempt him from military service by declaring him “ill” because he is gay. To “prove” his illness, they wanted to perform a manual anal examination – legalised rape, the equivalent of the virginity test which has been imposed by military and police on women in Turkey, especially Kurdish women. When Mehmet refused to be classified as ill, the army threatened to force him to submit to an anal examination, but after international campaigning (of which we were part), he was released from prison.
Military protection of rapists
The military have special “laws of exception” which protect its members from prosecution for abuse and violence.[xi] As Andrew Schmidt says: “You are taught [in the military] to take what you want. ‘You do whatever you want and we will protect you.’”
These laws are only one step further from what happens in criminal law among civilians, where the very low rate of prosecutions for rape, low sentences, the refusal in the UK to criminalise rape in marriage until 1991 (many countries have not done this yet), the refusal to accept rape as torture and therefore grounds for asylum – amounts to the State's collusion with rapists, showing men they can rape and get away with it.
$1 trillion a year to kill, rape and disable
The traditional disparity of power between women and men is first of all financial. As military budgets have risen, welfare and services have been cut – women, children and people with disabilities have been the first to suffer. To prioritise investment in military budgets[xii] is to increase women’s workload and poverty, keeping women financially dependent on men – who often have little themselves – for their children’s survival and their own.
Men used to having economic power over women often feel that sex is a perk of that power and they can take what they want, even by force. But increasing numbers of men feel that sex as an imposition on women is not the sex they want. The next step has to be that they dissociate themselves from the men who rape and the State that protects and encourages them. In the Campaign Against the Child Support Act in the early 90s, we opposed the men and men’s groups which preferred to attack ex-partners financially and physically, rather than join with them even though that was the only way to challenge and win against the Child Support Agency which was ripping everybody off -- fathers, mothers, second partners, and children. Thatcher’s CSA won.
To demand the military budgets be redirected to carers, primarily women, to pay for their caring work, is an important strategy to end women’s poverty and strengthens women’s refusal of rape. Money for women would also clarify relationships between women and men, since only to the degree that women are financially independent of men can we be sure that our relationships with women are voluntary on their part.
All men have to ask ourselves: why should men become what the military and the State train us to be? Do we have to accept that it seems like half the population is trained to take and the rest trained to give? Do we want to be killers and rapists or do we want to be carers? The international movement of refuseniks is pressing all men to make this choice. It is urgent, in our own interests, that we fight to choose caring over killing and raping.
[i] San Francisco Chronicle, February 4, 2003.
[ii] Documentary The Truth About Killing by journalist Grub Smith, was shown on Channel 4 in March 2004.
[iii] Quote from Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape
[iv] The War at Home, 60 Minutes, January 17, 1999, Heyman and Neidig (1999).
[v] Abuse Victims Study, DoD, 1994.
[vi] Jordan KB, Marmar CR, Fairbank JA, et al. Problems in families of male Vietnam veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1992;60:916-926.
[vii] Sadler, Booth, Cook and Doebbling. (2003, March). Factors associated with women's risk of rape in the military environment. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 43(3), 262-273.
[viii] Moffit M, Herdy A. Betrayal in the ranks: For crime victims, punishment. Denver Post. November 16, 2003. Available at: http://www.denverpost.com/betrayal. Accessed 9/08/05.
[ix] Male (and Female) Rape in the Military, Florida Today Special Report, Male sex abuse revealed in ranks, Thousands of male veterans report enduring sexual trauma during their military careers, Greg Helle. Image copyright © 2003, Courtesy of Greg Helle, FLORIDA TODAY, By Alan Snel
[x] For film of Andrew Schmidt and Rev. Dorothy Mackey of Survivors Taking Action Against Abuse by Military Personnel (STAAAMP) see Refusing To Kill.
[xi] “There are 5 laws of immunity given to military members if they rape, maim or murder. They are the Ferris Doctrine, the intramilitary immunity, etc.” Rev. Dorothy Mackey of STAAAMP.
[xii] They amount internationally to $1 trillion, with the US accounting for half of it.