Feature

Drinking and the military’s rape epidemic

The military is ignoring “a dominant factor” in its sexual assault epidemic: alcohol abuse.

Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins
The Washington Post

The military is ignoring “a dominant factor” in its sexual assault epidemic, said Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins: alcohol abuse. In the debate over how to reduce assaults in the armed forces, estimated at 26,000 last year, no one is discussing the fact that most of the attackers had been drinking heavily at the time of the assault, and so had many of their victims. When sober, warriors have strong bonds of trust and respect, and in my experience, male soldiers treat their women comrades as full and valued team members. But these values go out the window at social events involving soldiers, where “robust alcohol consumption” is actively encouraged. When they’re smashed, usually decent men can lose all inhibitions, forcing themselves on drunken subordinates who are too intimidated to speak out later. It need not be this way. In the same way colleges have addressed binge-drinking and campus rape, the military must attack its drinking culture, make plain that “such excess has no place in our ranks,” and punish both sexual predators and alcohol abusers. The military’s honor is at stake.

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