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AWIS in Action! January 2013 - M3
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AWIS In Action!

 Advocacy & Public Policy Newsletter   ~   January 2013
In This Issue
M3 The Maddening Monthly Mention
* Violence Against Women *
This past week, in an exciting move for equity, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced that women would now be allowed in active combat roles. While many appear to feel this may be a matter of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pentagon kowtowing to public sentiment, the reality of the situation is that warfare these days is very different and in the guerilla style conflicts in which we are engaged overseas, where our troops are more frequently attacked in caravan ambushes and roadside grenades than confrontations in open fields, there is rarely a way to distinguish between the front lines and support staff.
Over 200,000 jobs for which women were not eligible will now be made accessible to all who are qualified and not limited to their chromosomal arrangement. This should only benefit the armed forces by allowing them to tap into a deeper pool of talent to find the best candidates. Combat experience is viewed as an important stepping stone to promotions and with only one four-star general who is a woman there is obviously room for improvement. Furthermore, women in combat was one of the stumbling blocks to passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and one can hope that with one more obstacle removed, the passage of that amendment may yet be an achievable goal. Maybe.
But returning to the women in combat, many are unhappy. Not too many journalists are coming out and saying it, but one need only read the comments at the end of the articles to see how very concerned the men in this country are that more women are going to get raped. They are very concerned about this and see it as a very legitimate reason why women shouldn’t be allowed in combat situations. And it is not an unfounded concern, Secretary Panetta himself has described the way the military handles rape cases as "an outrage.”  However, as most of the sexual assaults against women in the military are perpetrated by their comrades in arms, rape by the enemy is probably less of a worry for most women considering entering combat. In fact, it is such an epidemic in the military that nobody is sure what a reasonable estimate of the number of sexual assaults is, and only a small fraction of those reported are prosecuted. Many never come forward because they fear retaliation.
All this concern about rape in combat units strikes me as a red herring because where were all these worried denizens earlier this month when the 112th Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for the first time since it was introduced in 1994? This bill supports victims of domestic violence and, you guessed it, rape. It is a piece of legislation that has helped give resources and protection to battered women all over this nation and consequently helped save countless lives, too. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have at some point in their lives been raped. What percent of the population do you think needs to be infected for something to count as an epidemic? Do you think it’s higher than 20%?
Last week there was a huge story about an alleged victim of fraud, a Notre Dame football player, who had an imaginary girlfriend that died of leukemia (I apologize, there is no way to restructure that sentence to make the story more intelligible) and it made headlines around the world. And the freshman at Notre Dame who committed suicide after allegedly being sexually assaulted by a player on the football team, and subsequently harassed by texts from friends of the attacker, while the University failed to follow up with, arrest, or even interview the alleged attacker? Oh, you didn’t hear about that? Yes, as a nation we are very concerned about rape. Don’t even get me started on the politicians and how "forcible rape,” a redundancy by definition, became a term.
Reporting a rape can be a traumatic experience on its own these days, particularly if the accused is a part of some bigger institution revered or beloved (the military, college sports, high school sports, etc.). It is understandable why it is difficult to get a good sense for the prevalence of sexual assault; there are many reasons why women are reluctant to report them. But we must believe that someone is looking out to protect those who cannot defend themselves, this is part of why we elect people to make laws to keep us safe. And Congress wants to, as long as the victim isn’t Native American, LGBT, or an immigrant. A new bill introduced this week by Representatives on either side of the aisle resolves a procedural issue involving revenue generation that was one of the problems the GOP raised against VAWA, but it remains to be seen whether this version will garner enough support to pass. Preventing violence against women should be a nonpartisan issue, but it seems not only do members of Congress who allowed the bill to fail think Thomas Jefferson was really only referring to the XY winners of the genetic lottery when he wrote that "all men are created equal”, but that even amongst us women, some are more worthy than others of protection against domestic abuse. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.
In This Issue


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