News outlets have been focusing more attention on the rampant sexual assault issues plaguing our armed forces. The worse accounts I’ve heard involve people who were supposedly in charge of preventing sexual assault engaging in such deplorable behavior themselves. One of the most talked about, and confusing, cases involves four men at Maryland’s Naval Academy who have been charged with sexually assaulting a “midshipman”, who even though is female is still referred to as such, as I assume “midshipperson” will more than likely never catch on there.
What’s confusing about this case is that the unnamed victim appears to be unsure whether or not she was assaulted in such a way. The testimony by her and peers paint a nebulous picture where a definitive crime is not immediately apparent. Even more confusing is information regarding what the victim did soon after the alleged assault. The prosecution says that she almost immediately went to military authorities and told them what happened and that they simply reprimanded her for underage drinking. Yet in the trial testimony, the victim has said that she initially refused to cooperate with the investigation but then decided to cooperate after being convinced by other close friends and another sexual assault victim that she should “stand up for herself”. However, early in the trial, it was revealed that she expressly told one of the accused, Joshua Tate, to tell the authorities that “nothing happened.”
Even stranger is the evidence that the victim engaged in oral sex with one of the accused, Eric Graham, the morning after the alleged incident. I can imagine a scenario of forced oral sex, but would this man really press his luck in such a manner? I can’t shake the idea that on the morning of that particular episode, neither of them knew that these charges would be brought against the accused. It is also highly doubtful, but I could be mistaken, that evidence will be presented that Mr. Graham violently forced the victim to perform oral sex, which is really the only way I can see that going down. It is very difficult to see a fellow midshipman, someone who is tough enough to join the Navy, to turn into such a ragdoll that after the evening they are raped, they then feel forced to perform oral sex on someone against their will (as it would not appear she was unconscious at the time). Could you imagine someone stealing something very valuable from your home and then simply hanging out with that person casually the next day? Inviting them to play with some of your things as though nothing happened? Would you not just be creating more problems for yourself that no one independent of you could possibly prevent?
Confounding things even more is the fact that the victim made various comments on social media where she seemed to be characterizing people who cooperated with the investigation as “snitches”. It’s difficult to determine how to interpret the victim’s CBS interview, where according to the accompanying article, she and her mother decided to go public because they did not think the academy was taking this issue seriously. But the testimony in the trial is clearly showing that the NCIS took these claims more seriously than she did, and they were apparently frustrated by her refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
I have to say, it is has always been difficult for me to understand how someone can be so affected by alcohol that they don’t remember what they did. This is a bias of mine. I have drank plenty in my day, and excessively at times—until I’ve puked or passed out. I completely understand dropping your inhibitions and acting less reserved when drunk. But to this day, I remain skeptical of claims of what sound like out-of-body experiences. I have personally known folks who have acted in embarrassing ways and later claimed not to remember what they did because of alcohol. In all of those instances, I’ve never been convinced that the person was no longer there, that they somehow exited their body and I was then dealing with someone else. People will describe extreme inebriation in such a way sometimes, but I can’t help but to understand them as speaking figuratively (i.e. “I was a different person”, “That wasn’t really me”, etc.). If you wish for others to respect you as a thinking, conscious human being, with the same responsibility for their actions as anyone else, no more no less, then you should see moments where you earnestly try to convince others to disregard your unconscious actions, when no other evidence supports you are unconscious, as violations of that pact, as it were. I can certainly imagine some extreme metal condition or even drug effecting how your mind and body works so that you operate in ways you did not anticipate. If alcohol is the sole cause of this kind of experience for you, especially if you willingly consumed it in a party setting, then it just sounds like someone is asking for trouble.
Here’s the reality: people have sex while drunk, or otherwise intoxicated. Having sex while drunk does not by itself constitute rape. If that were the case, then let’s just right here and now condemn ourselves as a nation of rapists. In truth, people have different preferences and different things will get them going. Alcohol should be plenty to get anyone going, as far as setting them in a less reserved, more free-spirited mood. Although there are bizarre claims to the contrary, most men and women in the world seem to understand that sex while very very drunk is not the definition of rape There is an alarming presence of people who contend that rape can occur even with both partners providing informed consent. These people are confusing the idea of “rape” with something like “sex I personally don’t approve of”.
Is the accused in this case really so helpless and dependent on external forces that she cannot look back at a night she regretted and resolve not to repeat such an experience? Nothing so far suggests that she was violently coerced or blackmailed or anything of that nature. On a night she herself was feeling very free-spirited, she shared a regrettable event with several other free-spirited feeling people. Upon retrospection, she came to the conclusion that she was violated. In that kind of wild party atmosphere, if you act in a flirtatious and less-inhibited manner, which many testify she did, would it not logically follow that people there would not only want to have sex with you, but be so brazen as to attempt to do so? At what point exactly would a drunk person waive responsibility for their actions?
I’m giving this young woman the benefit of the doubt that she is an intelligent human being, and definitely far more tough than I am to join the prestigious Navy Academy. Awareness ain’t just for Buddhists, my friends.
For the love of Jehovah, please comment. I know you don’t all agree with me.
2 thoughts on “Awareness is key”
a daring topic to plumb, to be sure! incendiary, one might even say! there are those who are going to dismiss you out of hand because you are male and therefore do not experience the day to day threat of being raped by a stranger (with a couple of extreme exceptions). there are others that are going to attack your notion of what it is to be violated and disagree with your conclusions about how easy it is to put behind you. i, having never experienced it personally, am not exactly sure what to think. what i can tell you is that there’s definitely been a lot more attention paid to this issue as of late. the zero-tolerance mindset for rape is absolutely correct and valid… provided we come to an agreed-upon definition of what rape is. let me give you this example:
this article is scary for many reasons. first, that someone should be raped on four separate occurrences… that’s awful and terrible to have to go through. i have absolute sympathy for her feelings of being violated and how these various experiences had ripple-effects throughout her entire life. but what scares me is how flexible and pliable rape’s meaning is in her story. in the first instance, she accepted a drunken walk home from a guy she has a crush on, wakes up next day in his bed.. waits till later and decides that she was raped and goes to the hospital. she claimed that things get a little hazy and she may or may not have puked before she ‘passed out’. but here inlies a problem. because where she can’t remember from is not the same place as her passing out. she remembers returning his kisses, but to think that she immediately fell asleep after that and had no further interaction in the proceedings is a big jump. ‘blacking out’ is not the same as ‘passing out’ … the implications are that once a woman is no longer cognitively functional because of extreme intoxication that the burden of intent lies only on the male. that’s a very scary notion for men, who thinks everything is consensual… then wakes up to somebody who doesn’t remember anything from the previous night and assumes they had intercourse against their will. that assumption could be terribly costly for everyone involved.
in another example, she describes getting together with someone as a teenager, saying no repeatedly and then saying yes at the end, because she assumed she had to. was it sleazy behavior on the part of the guy? absolutely… but expressed consent is what is males have to work with. mind reading is not part of their abilities.
there needs to be thoughtful discourse. we need to come up with different, more sophisticated language to describe our experience as sexual beings from both the male and female perspective. what we don’t need is a flame war. this is a terribly emotional issue for many, many people… and i do not presume to know their lives. but in the interest of conversation, we need to talk about what realistically can be done to address the so-called ‘culture’ of rape.
Hey there, Maxwell 🙂 Oh my… I just read Elyse Wojnowski’s story and I find it quite shocking for many reasons. No one will be able to help this poor lady but herself. In fact, I will soon have a lot more to say about this particular testimonial. I too sympathize with her because violation is awful. Most clear thinking people don’t condone it in any fashion, especially sexual assault. There are a lot of things that are awful that we do our best to avoid and I won’t make a list of, you know, the top ten terrible things.
From what she described, it looks like there were several options she had for different outcomes. I want to think she’s really as independent and smart as she’s trying to convince us she is. But it’s like she wants us to think she’s helpless when it fits the emotional mood of her account and that she’s very intelligent and strong when she wants to push that image of her. She is a strong intelligent person who made poor decisions. I’ll elaborate in my next post.