How wide do you open your mouth for oral sex?
Do you always wear underwear to parties?
If you had sex with a guy you’d just met at a party, would you consider yourself ‘a ho’?
These are excerpts from more than 30 hours of questioning a female midshipman in the US Navy was subjected to in a rape case that was highlighted by the New York Times this week. The case is emblematic of the sexual assault crisis facing the US Armed Forces.
The woman in question, who has not been named for legal reasons, alleges that while she was still a sophomore at the Naval Academy at Annapolis she was raped at a party by three Naval Academy football players.
In a clear attempt to destroy her credibility, the defendants’ lawyers asked her irrelevant and intrusive questions about her sexual conduct that were simply designed to embarrass her and portray her as some sort of promiscuous slut who got what she was asking for. These questions were permitted under Article 32 proceedings, which allow military courts to pursue an aggressive line of questioning that would not be allowed in civilian courts dealing with rape cases. The practice has led some, such as Democratic Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (NY), to call for rape cases to be removed from the military chain of command, to encourage more women to come forward if they are victims of sexual assault.
The US Armed Forces relies on the active participation of women and girls. According to a recent Pentagon survey there were 26,000 allegations of sexual assault in the military. How can any member of the armed forces, male or female, be expected to discharge their duty with confidence if even their own legal system appears designed to bully and intimidate them?
At a time when women and girls have had to listen to obscene statements about “legitimate rape” and divinely ordained rape from Tea Party nut-jobs, it is a disgrace that in a military court of law involving an allegation of rape, a woman should be put in a position where her sexual history becomes the focus of the trial.
Whether it is the Tea Party or the defense council in this case, there are clearly some people who think that in rape cases, blame can be attached to the victim. Let’s say this loud and clear: it is never, ever the fault of the victim in a rape case. No human being would ever choose to behave in a way that invites the most violent and personal violation imaginable.