Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Air Force

When you hear a story where a woman reports that she was raped and then subsequently has to go to court accused of "indecent acts", what country comes to your mind? Some place with the shariah law, probably, given that there are countries which interpret that law in the context of rape in a very narrow way: If you can't prove that you were raped then you were guilty of indecent acts and need to be punished.

I always felt that the real purpose of all this was to keep women from reporting rapes. After all, if the punishment for an unproven rape is that the victim herself will be flogged or stoned or hanged, well, that tends to have an inhibitive effect on rape reporting.

But the country I have in mind this time is not Saudi Arabia or Iran; it's the good ol' U.S. of A.. The Air Force, to be more exact. A female airman reported that she was raped but later refused to testify. Then things got surreal: She is going to be court-martialed for underage drinking and "indecent acts":

She says she was attacked in another airman's barracks room on the night of May 12-13, 2006. The charges against her allege that she performed an indecent act on one of the men she accused while the other two watched, the defense says.

In her letter, the woman said she reported the attack and was given a medical examination. The three men were charged with rape, but the charges were dropped after she refused to testify, she said.

"The pressure of the judicial process was too much for me, and I felt like no one was looking out for my interests," the woman wrote.

The men received nonjudicial punishments and have been granted immunity for their testimony in the woman's trial, according to documents the defense provided.

It sounds very odd that the men received only nonjudicial punishments. Were they not participants in at least the "indecent acts" if not a rape? Why is she going to be court-martialed, while they are given immunity? Immunity from what? Rape charges?

This will certainly make rape reporting rarer in the military. I hope that wasn't the intention, all along. But it may well be.