Saturday, February 15, 2014

Academy Rape: Rite of Passage?

Preserving the Integrity of the Naval Academy Football Team -- the Victim is Guilty!

Click here for related article [WaPo - Annys Shin]

We discovered today, in the "local news" section of the Post, that the US Military judicial system [aka: UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice)] is taking a new turn -- and a disgraceful one which will seriously degrade the quality of life of Military personnel from this point forward.

Briefly [with comment]:
A female Midshipman at the US Naval Academy alleges she was raped by three of the Academy's football players at an off-campus party about two years ago [apparently, the judicial process has slowed a bit since we were on Active Duty].  Two of the three defendants no longer face charges [apparently their talents on the football field outweighed the merits of the investigation -- and we all know how important Navy football is to the national defense program.]
The third defendant, Joshua Tate, is represented by a lawyer who demanded access to the victim's medical and mental health records covering her post-trauma period.
Defendants Bush, Tate, Graham       []

Astonishingly, the judge, COL Dan Daugherty, [USMC's chief judge] has agreed to release portions of those records to the defense attorney.

[Note:  Midshipman Joshua Tate was found Not Guilty; lesser charges of lying to investigators, etc., were "dropped".  
Penalty:  Dismissal from the Academy.  
The Rape Victim:  Forced out.]

According to court documents, the rape reportedly occurred at an off-campus drunken bash, and the victim was serially raped after she had passed out.   After she reported the incident, she came under fire from team-mates, classmates, and Academy administrators, with allusions that it was her fault.

Some issues here:
1) How frequent are these off-campus drunken bashes, and do faculty attend as well?
2) How is this conduct conducive to the development of Military Leadership?
3) Are female officer cadets at risk simply by virtue of their sex and naivete when they enter a US Military Academy?
4) Are Academy football players automatically exempt from criminal penalties?
5) One of these defendants was commissioned and reportedly serving on active duty; would you want your daughter serving with/near/under his supervision?

[Was the standard set back in 1991 with the Tailhook scandal in which 83 women were assaulted by Navy and Marine officers?]

But, so much for the confidentiality of medical records and doctor [psychiatrist] - patient confidentiality.

It is precisely the potential of such breaches of privacy that has traditionally prevented our Military personnel from seeking psychiatric counseling for PTSD issues; the fear, of course, is that their promotion, assignment, and career potentials would be obviated should their superiors, peers, or antagonists gain access to their medical records.

Aside from the initial reaction of disgust in this trial in which the victim is now on trial, we turn to the greater question of the breach of privacy for Military members.

Recognizing that our Military personnel endure considerable stress in combat and combat support, and even in such administrative support positions as manning nuclear missile sites, it's a given that they need to be able to relieve their stress periodically through counseling with a shrink, preferably a Military doctor who understands the environment and levels of stress these troops face.

There are two factors to consider.
1) The needs of the individual to release their mental demons and deal with them in a constructive fashion in order to function effectively.
2) The needs of the Service to ensure the member is sane and can function effectively.

Tom Lea's Thousand Yard Stare
If the individual has developed the Thousand Yard Stare, or the modern version PTSD, the individual needs to be assisted and led to an effective recovery process.

If that works, the individual can continue to be an effective soldier.  If not, the individual should be removed from duty until recovery is complete.  Untreated, we see incidents such as that of Staff Sergeant Bales, who inexplicably left his compound in Afghanistan and slaughtered 16 Afghan civilians in their homes. 

We'll add here that most individuals who have endured combat or the stress of surviving in a combat environment have routine psychological issues which would be judged abnormal by civilian shrinks. 

Think in terms of watching friends and comrades unexpectadly blown apart, legs and arms flying, gaping stomach wounds, blood spurting uncontrollably, sucking chest wounds, shrieking, scrambling, clawing, and shaking uncontrollably; these are a few of the scenes in combat. 
[I was once on an evac plane and found myself the only passenger with two feet still attached; mine were ankle deep in blood from the other passengers.]
But, even those non-combatants in the general battle zone undergo stress.
[My father was targeted by the North Koreans for kidnap and assassination, and barely escaped a close encounter; other incidents plagued him in nightmares for decades after he retired]

So, fear of death and/or dismemberment, or any number of military-related demons tend to make our Military a bit different psychologically than your average American.

When they get the shakes from those fears, they need someone to talk with and relieve themselves of these stresses so they can function normally [well, sort of].

With that as background, and with the awareness that the one thing at which the Military bureaucrats are highly skilled is undermining and screwing over the careers of earnest soldiers and officers by inserting secret notes in their files, Military careerists are cautious as to what they allow in their personnel files.
[I recovered my files via the Privacy Act and found astonishing hand-written notes by officers with whom I had done administrative battle (oddly enough, they were all Academy grads)].

If the individual seeks mental health counseling, and details from such discussions are recorded and passed to the the Military hierarchy, the doctor-patient relationship is abrogated, and the individual, particularly NCOs and officers, can see their careers slide into oblivion -- with no legal recourse since the process is often terminal before the individual becomes aware of it. 

So, what's at stake in this trial?
A Marine JAG officer who recognizes his potential for promotion to general rides on not offending a host of senior officers who are Academy grads who dearly want to ensure that the miscreants drafted to play football for the Academies are never hampered in the pursuit of a successful Academy football season, will put on the best show possible to assure the public that there remains, in fact, some level of ethics in the Military judicial system -- but don't count on it folks.

As a footnote, think in terms that these midshipmen -- all of whom admitted to egregious conduct, once commissioned, will serve as officers in the US Navy, commanding enlisted personnel.

A quick fix is to charge them with "Conduct Unbecoming an Officer" and dismiss them from the Service.  Let's fix our Military Services and protect our Service Members from these predators.