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Female Marine Officer Says: Sex Assault Problem’s Scope Exaggerated

Please read the following. We’d love your perspective.

Jim Michaels, USA TODAY 11:17 p.m. EDT July 15, 2013

WASHINGTON – Lindsay Rodman is a Harvard-educated lawyer who delved into women’s studies as an undergraduate at Duke. She is also a Marine Corps officer.

Now assigned to the Pentagon as a lawyer, Capt. Rodman has viewed the growing debate over sexual assault in the military with alarm. Her concern: the Pentagon’s study on sexual assault has exaggerated the scope of the problem, leading to Draconian “solutions” from Capitol Hill that will only make things worse.

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“If we are exaggerating what is going on rather than being precise about it then we are doing ourselves a disservice by helping perpetuate the problem,” Rodman says.

Rodman, 32, hastens to say she is speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the Marine Corps or the Pentagon. She recently has been assigned to the Joint Staff as a lawyer concentrating on sexual assault issues, but as a junior officer will have little influence over policy.

Still, her opinions have posed a direct challenge to prevailing wisdom in much of Congress, the media and Pentagon bureaucracy.A recent opinion article she wrote for The Wall Street Journal caused a stir by questioning the core conclusions in the Pentagon’s 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Media. The study concluded that last year, 26,000 active duty servicemembers experienced “unwanted sexual contact,” which ranges from groping to rape.

The conclusions were drawn from 24,000 responses after sending surveys to 108,000 active duty personnel. The survey determined that 6.1% of the female respondents experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012 and 1.2% of men.

The survey then “extrapolated” based on the size of the armed forces to arrive at the 26,000.

Rodman calls the survey “bad math” and has questioned how random the sample was. The number of reported sexual assault cases in 2012 was 3,374, up from 3,192 in 2011.

Nathan Galbreath, a top official in the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said it is common in polling to extrapolate results based on a sample – that’s how most political polling works – and stood by the results.

“This is a very stringent survey that’s done with the best of controls that are out there,” Galbreath said. “Our confidence in those numbers is extremely high.”

“I don’t think any of us here in the department have a vested interest in wanting to exaggerate the problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon inspector general’s report released Monday showed that 89% of the military’s criminal investigations into sexual assault were investigated properly. The report did, however, recommend the military’s criminal investigative agencies improve techniques for processing crime scenes and collecting evidence.

Rodman, who joined the Marine Corps after law school in order to broaden her experience, watched in horror as the issue of sexual assault in the armed services began to follow the well-worn path of a Washington scandal. A report was issued. Lawmakers expressed shock and hauled the service chiefs before congressional committees. Legislation was proposed, including proposals designed to remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command. Generals pledged to attack the problem.

“The situation of sexual exploitation in the armed services is beyond the pale,” said Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war, said he could not provide an unqualified recommendation to women considering to join the military. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., called sexual assault in the military an “epidemic.”

Fearful of appearing defensive if they challenged the scope of the problem, the brass pledged to take action as lawmakers savaged them

“It’s been very hard for me to watch our senior leaders,” Rodman said. “Any four-star (general) who says anything publicly about this immediately gets picked apart and their word choice gets quibbled with.

“They have let this caricature snowball without responding and now they are having to respond in the face of that caricature,” Rodman said.

Rodman insists she is not a closet conservative attempting to score political points. She supports the idea of increasing opportunities for women in the military, including the infantry. She said she was one credit shy of a women’s studies minor at Duke.

Rodman said that she was offended by the way the problem has been characterized and that it flies in the face of her own experience in the military. She said her inbox overflowed with positive e-mails from men and women after her Wall Street Journal op-ed appeared.

“I am not going around saying we don’t have an issue in the military,” she said. “There’s a lot we can do to make the military more friendly to women.

“I want people to know that about me,” Rodman said. “It’s very important we do right by victims.”

But somewhere along the line, truth became a casualty, Rodman said.

“The agenda should be to identify the problem, to come up with a solution,” she said. “That’s not what I see happening right now.”

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About AradiseDP

22-year Marine Corps veteran (1985 - 2007). I love the USA! I love life and the entire journey.

4 comments on “Female Marine Officer Says: Sex Assault Problem’s Scope Exaggerated

  1. In response to Capt. Rodman’s comments in the July 15, 2013 article, also serving as a Capt. with 19 years in the Corps, sometimes you have to rattle the cage to get people to stop, listen and take action. Her final comment about, “identifying the problem and coming up with a solution,” is easier said than done considering the culture shift that is necessary in the military to commission and develop leaders of sound moral and ethical attributes, recruit young men and women across socioeconomic levels willing to put aside their prejudices, immoral behavior or lack of social values, revamp a military judicial system to strive for equitable justice for all and determine a way to ensure the accused and alleged victim are both protected until the case is tried in court. So, Capt. Rodman, I hope your esteemed Harvard degree will work to our advantage and not just create more negative publicity for the DoD. Be a part of the solution.

    • Thank you Capt Reidinger for your motivating comment. It’s true, most are quick to criticize most anything today. That’s fine as long as they consider that complaining is only helpful if you provide options toward a solution. Semper Fidelis, Capt Reidinger!

  2. As a nurse Vietnam Veteran I was not aware of sexual assault being an issue, but when I began to research the issue, read the history and interviewed women veterans from every service branch and all time periods, I discovered what a serious and pervasive problem it was. I have written about that and included a review of the literature on the subject along with the stories of women who were sexually assaulted while serving proudly in the U.S. Military. In my book Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military, due out in November (www.womenunderfire.net), I pointed out what can be done differently to insure appropriate care to victims, investigations done without bias and with proper forensic evidence gathered, and accountability for the perpetrators. I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement that the truth was a casualty in this. Justice was the casualty. There was none for women who reported a sexual assault, they instead received severe retaliation. There is a culture of abuse toward women in our military and the way the services have handled themselves in relation to MSA has done damage to our military. It is time to restore honor and justice. I invite you to read my book, see the movie the Invisible War and educate yourself about what you have not seen or experienced.

    • Ms. Blum: First, thank you for your service during a very challenging time for women serving our nation! I appreciate your comment and look forward to reading your book. This is a very sensitive issue for women across the military spectrum world-wide! Comaraderie, unit-cohesion, effectiveness and productivity overall have been sacrificed significantly by the presence of and lack of reprecusions of those who commit sexual assault (against male and female victims). It’s shameful that we have to even have these discussions, especially knowing the world is watching how we are handling them with limitations. Time will tell if this culture evolves to one of respect and honor and thereby fully eliminating these crimes!

      PS – I hope you’ve created a Facebook page for your book. I’d love to follow it and see what others are saying.

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