Tag Archives: sexual assault of women

A Math Lesson

20 May

sexual assault posterI teach math. My son, who is practically a mathematical genius (he got a perfect score on the trig part of the ACT), thinks this is hilarious. He maintains I am terrible at math.

I will grant that I used to be bad at math; there’s nothing like teaching a subject to motivate you to understand it. So, I am no longer bad at math. Now, the formulas that gave me fits in school are starting to become friends. I even look forward to teaching my math classes.

One of the things I love teaching is percentages. Once we get a handle on the “for every hundred of these, there are whatever of those” bit, we can start playing around with different percentages of things. I especially like asking my students if they would like say, one percent of a million pieces of candy or five percent of 100,000 pieces of candy. “Duh, Ms. Janice,” they invariably say, “we want the five percent.”

“Why do you want the five percent?” I ask.

“Because five percent is bigger than 1 percent.”

Then we do the math. I love to see their stunned little faces when they find out that one percent of a million is a lot more than 5 percent of 100,000.

Recently, I was similarly stunned. I’ve been keeping up on the sexual assault reporting in the media and on the Internet. Kind of hard to avoid it, actually. I was appalled, rightly so, at the number of women in the military who have been sexually assaulted. Turns out, based on a DOD annual survey of sexual assault in the military, that six percent of military women say they were assaulted in some way in the prior year. I believe them.

Because I always zig when every one is zagging, I wondered if our military men were being assaulted as well. Turns out that only 1.2 percent surveyed said they’d been assaulted. Well, that’s better, I thought.

Then, I remembered my math classes and the million pieces of candy.

Based on DOD figures released in January of this year, there are 1,429,995 people currently serving in the military.1 Of those, 210,485 are women.2 That means there are 1,219,510 men in the service. Six percent of the women—12,629—were sexually assaulted. So how much does 1.2% of men work out to? 14,634.3

In other words, more than 2,000 more men than women were sexually assaulted last year.

That’s a hell of a lot of people that no one is talking about, no one is writing blog posts about, no one—in essence—cares about.

In fact, the only mention I’ve seen of men being sexually assaulted was by Leon Panetta when he estimated the number of attacks in 2011 by service members on other service members — both women and men — was close to 19,000, more than six times the number of reported attacks. In 2010, 3,158 sexual assaults were reported.4

It’s no surprise that sexual assault goes unreported. We’ve been hearing about women’s reluctance to come forward about attacks. But as reluctant as female service members are to report sexual assault, imagine how much more reluctant male service members are, particularly given that 94 percent of assailants are men.3

I can’t think of a culture more driven by macho than the military, except maybe professional wrestling and that’s all make-believe. Frankly, I’m surprised that even 1.2 percent of men told the DOD survey takers about their assaults. The survey also questioned participants about the nature of the assault. Women were pretty forthcoming about how they were assaulted. Some 19 percent, though, declined to give specifics; 36 percent of male victims declined to tell what was done to them.

We have no problem seeing women as victims, but women also have no problem shouting loudly and frequently when we are victimized. But men and sexual assault? When we think men and sexual assault, the vision that comes to mind is drunken football players or psychopaths like Ariel Castro and Ted Bundy. While the military has a sexual assault response team, men just don’t use it. Consider these words of a service man regarding the PTSD he suffers:

We’re urged to self-refer and seek help, but most of us were raised to be silent bearers of our problems, which is why the military culture suits us well – we are by nature stoic and Spartan.

While that soldier’s PTSD does not derive from sexual assault, PTSD is far more common among male victims of sexual assault in the military (65%) than it is for women (46%).5, 6 And that gets us back to our math lesson.  If 65% of male victims suffer PTSD, that works out to 9,512 service men. Experts in military PTSD state that PTSD stemming from sexual assault causes more lasting damage than that caused by  battle experiences.5

I consider myself a feminist, as do most of the women voicing their outrage and disgust over sexual assault of women in the military. Maybe it’s because I have a son, maybe it’s because I remember Gloria Steinem and her call for gender equality, but if we have a feminism that is only outraged when women are victims, then we don’t have a feminism I want to be part of.

Ignoring the majority of victims of sexual assault in the military isn’t fair and it isn’t right. My fervent hope is that everyone outraged enough to speak out will speak out for all of the victims, not just the women.

I am indebted to BrainRants for his moving description of PTSD. Please read it here.

  1. http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/MILITARY/ms0.pdf  “Armed Forces Strength Figures for January 31, 2013”. United States Department of Defense. Retrieved May 20, 13
  2. http://www.statisticbrain.com/women-in-the-military-statistics/
  3. http://www.sapr.mil/media/pdf/research/2012_Workplace_and_Gender_Relations_Survey_of_Active_Duty_Members-Survey_Note_and_Briefing.pdf
  4. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/18/10184222-panetta-could-be-19000-military-sex-assaults-each-year?lite
  5. http://deploymentpsych.org/topics-disorders/sexual-assault-in-the-military
  6. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/military-sexual-trauma.asp
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