Soldier As Rapist: All Too Common

Fort Bragg soldier Spc. Aaron Pernell, 22, an indirect fire infantryman who has served two tours in Iraq, was charged with sexual assault in February. Pernell appeared in court Tuesday on 13 charges including rape and attempted rape. What’s unique about these charges are that they were made at all: thousands of other military rapists have escaped punishment in the past fifteen years, according to the Denver Post in its excellent investigative series [PDF].

As the Ms. Blog recently reported, a new Pentagon study confirms that militarized sexual violence (MSV) is on the rise. Yet, while crimes such as those Pernell is charged with are all too common, perpetrators regularly escape punishment and often re-enter the civilian world with no criminal record.

Since one-third of women who join the military are raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers, we must recognize that the soldier as rapist is all too common. Given that rape and sexual assault rates rise in the civilian world during wartime, we must also recognize that militarized sexual violence is trickling down into our communities. As more soldiers return home, we can expect more crimes like those Pernell is charged with.

In fact, areas surrounding military bases have already seen increasing numbers of sexual assault. Stacy Bannerman, author of When the War Came Home, calls this “collateral damage,” writing:

In the past five years, hundreds, if not thousands, of women have been beaten, assaulted, or terrorized when their husbands, fiancés, or boyfriends got back from Iraq. Dozens of military wives have been strangled, shot, decapitated, dismembered, or otherwise murdered when their husbands brought the war on terror home.

The practice of granting moral waivers–which allow people to enlist who have records of domestic violence, sex crimes, and manslaughter–may also exacerbate rates of MSV. Further, as Professor Carol Burke documents, many soldiers enlist as teenagers to escape troubled or violent homes. Since such abuse (if not addressed) tends to be cyclical, filling our military ranks with abuse survivors without addressing childhood trauma, offering psychological counseling, or implementing anti-abuse training, is a recipe for continued violence. These factors, in conjunction with the prevalence of PTSD (post-traumatic-stress-disorder) in returning soldiers, which has been linked to enacting violence, likely means that rates of MSV will not be going down anytime soon.

Though Pernell’s case is a horrific one, sadly it is far from unique. To read more on this subject, watch for my feature article in the upcoming Spring issue of Ms. magazine.

ABOVE: Mug shot of Aaron Pernell.

Comments

  1. I had no idea that 1/3 of the women who join the military are raped or sexually assaulted. MSV trickling down to our communities is very real and often dismissed.Thank you, Natalie for bringing this important issue to our attention.

  2. Thousands of women are brutally raped, hardly a few are punished i just hope that government makes some strict laws regarding these kinds of issues so that no one repeats such acts ever again!

  3. Socialist Worker says:

    During the Vietnam Era, you know where American Imperialism was defeated in 1975, they use to drill the troops with this little ditie. This is my weapon, This is my gun, one is for fighting, the others for fun. The Imperialist Empire’s military requires obedience not thoughtfulness or humanity. Reguardless of how many women “serve” its nature is totally reactionary. Only a revolutuion like Cuba’s can change that. The last battle to defeat the mightest Empire ever known will take place here in “America.” This will close the door on Capitalist exploitation forever and open up the door to a Socialist World free of war and injustice. Where the working people the great majority of humankind will operate industry and agriculture for human need not greed.

  4. weldingchick85 says:

    Our military rather medical discharge a rape victim than convict a rapist. Fact

  5. A woman should never go through anything like that. I dont know what goes through some guys minds that they think that kind of act is ok. They not only need to be locked up but also need help. Lets hope we can stop these kinds of acts and help woman be safe.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Soldier As Rapist: All Too Common : Ms Magazine Blog Since one-third of women who join the military are raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers, we must recognize that the soldier as rapist is all too common. Given that rape and sexual assault rates rise in the civilian world during wartime, we must also recognize that militarized sexual violence is trickling down into our communities. As more soldiers return home, we can expect more crimes like those Pernell is charged with. (tags: sexual.violence domestic.violence trauma military usa iraq.war) [...]

  2. [...] To read Natalie Wilson’s posting at the Ms. Magazine Blog, click here. [...]

  3. [...] if the soldier-as-rapist is not an aberration? (Cross-posted here at [...]

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