In my post Military Female Doublethink and Rape Myth Debunking I was shocked incredulous by some statistics showing that reported sexual assault and rapes in the military were orders of magnitude greater than civilian comps.
There was some blowback in the comments, specifically around a few assertions I made:
1) Females in the military are more promiscuous than civilian counterparts.
Commenter Sarah says:
I find it insulting you think women in the military more promiscuous. Do you think they’re all just going out having sex with every male military member regardless of rank just to “fit in?”
Is there evidence for this?
Apart from abundant anecdotal evidence (although not conclusive to my statement), there’s not a lot of detailed surveys comparing military vs non-military females. I did run across this report of a study (actual report linked here):
Andrew S. London, chair of the sociology department and a sociology professor at Syracuse University, said the study is based on data from a 1992 national survey, which found that more than 32 percent of ever-married veterans reported extramarital sex — about twice the rate among ever-married non-veterans at 16.8 percent.
Hardly conclusive because as the report notes the number of females in the study was too small, but double-the-sex is what we might call an “indicator.” Especially if you buy the argument that culture begets action (see also: all the arguments about how society imprints behavior on people, military culture, male/female roles, etc), then if a group of people behaves one way, then most of those people–by definition– behave that way.
As always, I welcome factual correction and thoughtful criticism.
2) False Rape/Assault reporting is a significant problem
Specific comment was from Sarah:
But let me educate you a little. If a report is found to be false the person who reported does see repercussions. That’s a serious offense in the military and a false report can actually get you discharged depending on the command.
I disagree that the incentives are enough to balance the temptation to false-report for a variety of reasons. Although UCMJ says false reporting shouldget punished, does it? And are those repercussions enough to serve as deterrents?
There are two articles that deal with this:
1) Article 120. Here is a summarized list of offenses and punishments, with examples from severe to “minor”.
Rape and Rape of a Child: Dishonorable Discharge, death or confinement for Life, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Aggravated Sexual Assault: Dishonorable Discharge, confinement for 30 yrs, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Aggravated Sexual Contact:Dishonorable Discharge, confinement for 20 yrs, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances…
Abusive Sexual Contact: Dishonorable Discharge, confinement for 7 yrs, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Indecent Act: Dishonorable Discharge, confinement for 5 yrs, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances…
Wrongful Sexual Contact:Dishonorable Discharge, confinement for 1 yr, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Indecent Exposure: Dishonorable Discharge, confinement for 1 yr, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
So, a false rape accusation can result in up to death, life in prison, and forfeiture of all pay / allowances for the accused.
What if the accuser is found to be falsely accusing, and prosecuted?
2) Article 134 for False Swearing:
Maximum punishment: Dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 3 years.
Possibly (and maybe a lawyer can help out here) Ch 10 Article 107:
Any person subject to this chapter who, with intent to deceive, signs any false record, return, regulation, order, or other official document, knowing it to be false, or makes any other false official statement knowing it to be false, shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
So, technically, yes, there can be repercussions for false accusations, but per my original statement, the payoffs are highly asymmetrical. A person falsely accused but convicted of rape can be imprisoned for life or even put to death. Lesser offenses can net 20-30 yrs in prison. The false accuser can get up to 3 yrs in prison.
How many false-rape-accusation prosecutions were there last year?
Here is the breakdown of sexual assaults and crimes from the Pentagon’s report on 2012: (emphasis added)
At the end of FY12, the Military Services reported dispositions for 2,661 of the 3,288 military and civilian subjects receiving or waiting for a disposition for the allegations against them at the close of FY12. 12 Investigations determined that 947 of the 2,661 subjects were either outside the legal authority of the Department or a military criminal investigative agency determined the allegations were unfounded (false or baseless). 13 The remaining 1,714 subjects investigated for sexual assault were presented to military commanders for consideration of disciplinary action. Of the 1,714 military subjects, commanders could not take action against 509 due to evidentiary problems.Eighty-one of the 1,714 military subjects received no disciplinary action because commanders determined the criminal allegations were unfounded (false or baseless). Commanders had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action against 1,124 of the 1,714 military subjects. Of the 1,124 subjects, sexual assault charges were substantiated for 880 subjects for whom it was determined a sexual assault offense warranted discipline. For the remaining 244 subjects, evidence supported command action for other misconduct discovered during the sexual assault investigation (such as making a false official statement, adultery, underage drinking, or other crimes under the UCMJ), but not a sexual assault charge. Sexual assault charges and other misconduct charges included court-martial charge preferrals, nonjudicial punishment, administrative discharges, or other adverse administrative actions. Sixty-eight percent of subjects receiving disciplinary action for a sexual assault had court-martial charges preferred against them.
So we have two edge cases to consider.
1) Low-False-Rate: 81/2661 cases were definitively false accusations, or 3%.
2) High-False Rate: (81 definitive+509 evidentiary+947 jurisdictional / false + 244 other-than-sex-crimes) / 2661 = 1781 /2661 = 67%.
The truth is likely somewhere between the two, because the evidentiary and jurisdictional and other-offense cases likely contain pools of false accusations, but there are also other considerations involved. This is in line with other evidence (cited inCenter for Military Readiness’s Sex, Lies, and Rape) showing ranges from 9% to 40% of accusations are false.
Additionally, we do not see whether any of the false accusations went to trial and got convictions, because those would not be broken out from the other court-martial numbers.
So somewhere between 81 and ~1800 false rape accusations happened in 2012.
So how many were prosecuted?
The only information I found on that question was here:
“Unsubstantiated accusations remain a significant problem, but the SAPRO is doing nothing about it,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “I went through both volumes and found no evidence of concern about the significant 17 percent of ‘unfounded accusations.’ Something should be done to reduce the numbers of false accusations, the first step being an admission that the problem exists.”
I spent a while searching other forums, but did not find any mention of any military prosecution of any false-rape accusers for that offense. So to Sarah’s point above, I say: Bollocks. I will happily post updates if someone does find them.
The point here, if you’ve read this far, is to highlight the asymmetry between incentives for reporting assault and how much of a real problem this is. While there are provisions in UCMJ for prosecuting that offense, it’s been noted that this is an extremely difficult thing to do. Therefore, inherently, there is — even beyond the stated possible punitive action– a very very small risk taken by the false accuser, and a very very very large one for the accused. Again, I ask: What does that incentivize?
Instead, we hear only about how terrible the rape culture in the military is. As mentioned previously, and being the obvious truth, no one should be assaulted or raped– and those who do should be punished. But that’s a very different attitude than automatically condoning or blithely disregarding the very real possibilities of lifetime imprisonment for frivolous accusations, and the effects that environment has on military effectiveness.
As always, I welcome factual correction and thoughtful criticism.