Thursday, May 19, 2016

When Female Soldiers Face Enemies on Both Sides

While the Army wouldn’t upgrade Emily Vorland’s discharge, Texas thought enough of her service to give her a veteran’s license plate Emily Vorland is one of the many women soldiers within the United States army who have encountered the tragic event of sexual assault. Emily did file a complaint that one of her superior officers had raped her. However, instead of helping and supporting her or discipline her attacker, the army decided to discharge Ms Vorland. As they took the attackers side, who claimed that Emily consented to sexual relations. Ms Vorland would have brought up the fact that she had identified herself as a lesbian, however this was during the time when Don't Ask Don't Tell was still enforced. As a result Emily lost her position in the United States army.

Emily is not the first woman to get discharged from the army because she reported a rape. There are thousands of female soldiers who experience rape while on duty. Instead of helping these women, they are discharged by the army due to small technicalities, (such as not saluting a higher ranked officer.) and personality disorders caused by the rape. As a result these soldiers are unable to acquire the mental help provided by the army that they need to cope with such an tragic event. They are also unable to obtain the VA benefits also provided by the military after serving their time overseas.

To make matters worse, the process of upgrading one's discharge is a long, emotional, stressful, time consuming, and difficult one. Most of the time, the review boards who handle upgrading discharges are not approved. Most of the time the boards just agree with the initial discharge. As a result women soldiers are in danger on both sides of the battlefield, as they could get sexually assaulted, not get any support to cope with. Then shortly afterwards get honorably discharged, and have little chance of upgrading their discharge and not receive VA benefits.

What regulations do you think should be enforced in order to protect female officers from experiencing such a tragic event?

What regulations do you think should be enforced in order to support women soldiers who do experience sexual assault while in the line of duty?

What is your opinion of the United States armed forces now that you have been informed about the terrible events that take place off the battlefield?

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/19/politics/sexual-assault-military-human-rights-watch-report/index.html

http://time.com/4340321/sexual-assault-military-discharge-women/

14 comments:

Monica Mai said...

This is absolutely terrible and disgraceful. First, this would deter so many women from joining the army. Second, this is kind of ironic to the purpose of the army. The army is supposed to protect the people and the public, but if they can't even protect the women in the army, what's the point?? And to discharge them for being the victim of something so cruel is absolutely backwards. I think that regulations need to be made to better protect female soldiers. Victims should always be innocent until proven guilty. Superior officers and other soldiers need to be held more accountable to their actions. A superior officer who harms another soldier in any way should be removed, especially if s/he rapes another soldier. There must be better protection for women, which includes support and trauma help. While there obviously needs to be an army to defend the country, I think that we should cut military spending, especially when women are being mistreated in the army. While soldiers are admirable for their desire to protect the country, something must be done to prevent the higher-up officials from abusing their powers. If the US Army can't protect their female soldiers, then it is truly a shame.

Dhruv Rohatgi said...

Alex, I think it is great that you decided to publish a piece of news like this because it generally does not tend to hit the headlines and catch many people's attention. I do believe that the way the Army handled this situation may have handled the situation incorrectly. I think the Army discharged the woman because if they had kicked out a man for sexual assault, they may feel like more negative attention and investigation towards this matter will continue. I think that it is unfair that woman and men both, who are victims, are kicked out and that some regulation should ensure that their issue is looked at fairly. I think it is hard to have regulation to stop sexual harassment and assault but rather if you punish those who do commit this injustice less people will try to do it since they know they cannot get away with it.

Scott Liu said...

A large component of the struggle that women face when they are being sexually discriminated against is not just physical in the sense that you need to protect yourself when you walk outside at night, but it is also psychological. It is psychological in the sense that because you are a woman, society gives you leeways, such as programs that encourage women to major in science, and so it is similar to what the beneficiaries of affirmative action face when they are accepted to top universities—you get the “imposter effect” which is the sense that you are not as good as your peer who is different because they are male or because they are caucasian. It also establishes the sense that you are unable to succeed unless you exceed your peers because you feel that is the only way to demonstrate you are not weaker, and you can gain their respect. It is not just physical, it is psychological. One of the ways the military can improve the environment and generate inclusivity is by providing mental counseling services to both women and men who feel they are being discriminated against. This is an issue we can extend beyond gender because there is a stigma in the military surrounding mental disorders, not strictly the military, but also the civilian world. If you want to stop the physical consequences, you have to address the psychological consequences, and you cannot start unless you reverse the stigma.

Lea Tan said...

Because this happened when Don't Ask Don't Tell was still in place, it's possible that the outcome of such a rape case would be different now. Back then, women could be discharged simply for saying they were lesbian, but now that is considered unconstitutional, I'm not sure if rape cases are looked at any differently. Nevertheless, there should definitely be the same services that are available to the general public also available to people serving in the army because they deserve to have support and help when such traumatic events happen. I agree with Scott that sexual assault leads to a lot of psychological damage that needs to be remedied with counseling. There needs to be a way to hold superiors in the army more accountable for their actions. Higher up army officials seem to be harder to convict because they can more easily ease their way out of convictions simply by being superior in the case. Holding a high position in the army makes people respect you more, and it's a lot more likely that judges in such cases would be biased towards the person in charge.

Virginia Hsiao said...

I think while this case was impacted by the emplacement of Don't Ask Don't Tell, I believe that it results from a systemic issue regarding power hierarchies and perceptions of gender roles in society. The army, being a more traditional body that is marked by regulations, has a more exaggerated power hierarchy in place, and it is unfortunate that such a power structure amplifies issues like this. I think going forward, the army needs to recognize that rape and the resulting trauma are serious issues that do cause an individual significant harm. Regulations regarding mandatory treatment, comprehensive evaluations of the reported rape, and disciplinary measures for guilty parties regardless of their ranking should ideally be put forth. This situation is not completely representative of what the army does for the American people; however, because many cases like this are slid under the rug, greater assessment of how individuals within the army are treated should be made.

Carolyn Ku said...

It is disgusting that the women's rape wasn't even addressed by the army, and that they were discharged for minor and unrelated infractions. This silencing can do just as much harm to the women's mental health as the actual rape by invalidating their experience. It also sends the message to superior officers that they can get away with sexual assault, and makes it unlikely that women who are sexually assaulted will report it because they think they will be discharged. The army should create regulations that make sexual assault a dischargeable and prosecutable offence and the women's claims should be taken seriously. Unfortunately even outside the army, women who are sexually assaulted are also silenced and rapists avoid prosecution.

Horace He said...

Wow. That's a pretty bad look for the US Army. I agree somewhat with Virginia, in that this is mostly due to the power hierarchy in place in the army. However, I don't particularly agree that the way the army has treated this can be blamed on any particular kind of gender roles. The army has never been tolerant of those who spoke up, from how they treated homosexuals to the recent case of discharging a Green Beret who stood up against a child rapist.

Rachael Howard said...

This is simply disgusting. People should not lose their power to press charges and get justice just because they are in the army. It doesn't matter that they got raped by someone who is ranked higher then them, literally people are all equal no matter what position they have. I find it unbelievable that just because they have a high ranking position they become exempt. These men are getting away with committing a felony! I can't believe that the US Army, which stands for justice and defending people who need help are being complete hypocrites by not helping these women who have been violated in the most disturbing way possible. Personally, I though the army was supposed to protect and help those who can defend themselves, I guess I was wrong...

Nicholas Tong1 said...

News like these definitely need to be published more, as I am sure that this is not the only case of abuse that happens. We rarely hear anything bad going on in the military. I am not sure if this is for patriotic reasons or otherwise, but few, if anything, is worth the psychological and physical trauma that can occur from working in the military.

Furthermore, based on Vorland's interview from the original article in Time, Vorland's hearing was apparently also biased. Rather than holding a neutral and objective hearing, Vorland recalls that the hearing was like a "witch-hunt." Obviously, this is unacceptable. Considering the possible trauma that Vorland has undergone, the hearing needs to be neutral, if not supportive of her.

However, I'd also like to play devil's advocate and find out if there are any justifications for the higher ranking officer who allegedly raped Vorland. While raping should not be acceptable under any circumstances, we still need to consider the other side, lest we sound like indignants who blindly support Vorland and other alleged rape victims.

Alton Olson said...

I agree with all above that this is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed and has not received enough attention so far. However, the issue of reporting rapes goes far beyond just the military. Many rapes go unreported and ignored because the victim may feel ashamed or at fault for what happened. I think the solution to this issue is a different approach to how we view rape as a society.

Scott Silton said...

I heard a news piece about this on KQED Thursday morning that left me sputtering in rage. One of the sources in that story was a male victim, for what it is worth. There is a long history of rape culture in the military, and it isn't specific to America by any means, but it has gone on for far too long. The Tailhook scandal was 25 years ago, and the Air Force Academy scandal was 13 years ago.

Scott, I'm not sure I get the connection of stereotype threat to this story. The military could stamp out rape, assault, and harassment and still be left with stereotype threat. Reversing stigma is a good goal, but how about we start by not raping, not making excuses for rape, not covering up rape, not blaming the victim for rape, and ending misogyny? Physical safety is prerequisite for emotional safety, but emotional safety -- which doesn't come from tuition, room, board, and books -- is a prerequisite for being able to access education and therefore opportunity. Emotional safety is the ultimate goal (to a point; I don't mean to endorse campus activist censorship), but stopping rape should be the first priority in this campaign.

Christopher Duan said...


I think that the regulations in place are already sufficient, as I'm sure that rape is not allowed in the military. however, enforcement of these policies is a different story, as explained in your post. In terms of WHAT regulations should be enforced, every regulation should be enforced, and of course one of them being that rape is an offense that should punish the offender, not the victim. The first two questions in this post I think are self explanatory: there should be strict and fair trial and execution of punishment handed out. It is not a question of "what regulation". My opinion of the United States armed forces has not changed, since I don't think that the actions of the perpetrators or their superiors represent the military as a whole. That would a gross over generalization and system of guilt without trial I don't want to put on our military.

Jong Lim said...

There are already regulations that have been lifted that have previously inhibited people that have been raped. However, I dislike the wording in your question, as it asks specifically for female officers. Does this mean that male officers have different regulations to follow?

Instead of influencing my opinion the United States Armed Forces, I am indifferent. I feel that this article is just a reminder of the faulty Don't Ask Don't Tell regulation that was previously in place.

Emily Vorland said...

Thank you for your write-up ... I wanted to submit a correction: I was sexually harrased, not assaulted.
Either way the outcome for soldiers is the same -- speak out and report it and you may be punished, both men and women.
Thank you to everyone who responded as well.