EDITOR’S NOTE: In this piece, the father of a wrongfully-convicted U.S. military officer shares personal observations about a military justice system seemingly focused on convicting innocent men at any cost. Out of fear of repercussions against his son, he asked that his name be withheld until such time as his son is free from prison.
An interesting, yet dangerous phenomenon is growing like a cancer within the ranks of the United States Military. It seems to have many in the media, as well as many in the public and political arenas, stumbling all over themselves to fuel the fire. It could be likened to a snowball rolling downhill as it gathers both speed and size, taking out everything and everyone in it’s ever widening path. It is commonly referred to as the “Military Sex Scandals.”
Exhibit 1 in DoD’s Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military makes no mention of the false reports which increased by a staggering 35 percent in just four years.
Of course, the sad fact is that a real problem does exist with rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment in the armed forces, just as does in American society at large. Those actually guilty of these crimes should, and must, be punished. Therein lies the problem. It is not only the guilty who are being swept up into this ravenous dragnet, but anyone whose name is even mentioned in the same breath as such a crime, whether or not there exists a shred of evidence, is caught in it’s snare.
One might ask, why would any woman accuse an innocent man of such a heinous act? A very valid question with no simple answer. There are numerous possible reasons. Some women might simply be attempting to protect their reputation, a marriage, or another relationship. Others are clearly devious and deceitful, looking for their 15 minutes of infamy, however they might be able to achieve it. Still other accusations can be tied to the misinformation being spoon fed to every person wearing a uniform in the United States Armed Forces.
Erroneous statements, such as claiming a servicewoman is legally incapable of consent after consuming just one alcoholic beverage, has been known to be voiced by those conducting the frequent mandatory briefings. This totally-incorrect and ludicrous statement is all too often taken as fact by those attending these sessions. Just this one statement, which is one of the most common falsehoods being spread through the ranks, could, and does, have serious implications when an “accuser” first approaches her commander to report what she believes is an “assault.” By then, it is too late to recant and walk away.
Once a sexual assault case is opened in today’s military, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to close. Very few commanders are willing to risk their careers by dismissing any even remotely possible case of sexual assault. Cases are passed up the chain until they reach the rubber stamp of the Article 32 and on to a Courts-Martial.
“Let the members of the jury decide” becomes the rally call. Meanwhile, the pressure to convict remains and continues to rear it’s ugly and threatening head. Members of the jury also have careers.
Several weeks ago, in May of 2013, the Department of Defense made public its Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. While the media, the Pentagon, and numerous members of Congress focused their attention solely on the number of sexual assault cases reported, one stunning figure remained noticeably absent from the conversation. The number of false sexual assault reports is growing at a rate nearly nine times faster than the rate of total reports. The Pentagon refers to these false reports as “unfounded allegations” based on completed investigations of reported sexual abuse.
From 2009 to 2012, the number of sexual abuse reports rose from 3,244 to 3,374, a four percent increase. In 2009, “unfounded allegations” numbered 331. In the year 2012, the number rose dramatically to 444, a staggering 35 percent increase in just four years. The Pentagon’s report noted the numbers of false accusations, but stopped short of offering any analysis of the dramatic increase.
Buried deep inside the DoD Fiscal Year 2012 Report on Sexual Assault in the Military are details of the unfounded cases (a.k.a., “false reports”) that increased by a staggering 35 percent in four year.
Understandably, there are those who do not, or will not, consider the numbers contained in the Pentagon’s report to have merit. Likewise, they will not even consider any suggestion that untruthfulness is common in every corner of our society, including the military. But one need not look too far to see how dishonesty has benefited so many in every walk of life; from athletes, to entertainers, to politicians, to everyday people who are looking to litigate any situation which might pad their wallets. It is an unfortunate truth, but people lie.
The military justice system has now found itself in a position of bending over backward for any woman claiming to be a victim of a sex crime. Due process, presumption of innocence, and justice based on evidence has gone by the wayside in an over zealousness for convictions, and not necessarily the truth. To those tasked with “fixing” this problem, anything short of a conviction and a denied clemency is a failure.
Many innocent men, good men, men with wives and children, with mothers and fathers, and with dreams of a normal, fulfilling life, are now incarcerated and will live with the label of “sex offender” for the remainder of their lives. They were willing to give their lives for their country, and ultimately, through a warped and unjust system, they did. They will find it difficult to find sustainable employment or a place to live without neighbors peeking at them from behind their curtains. Some will turn to crime as a last resort when no landlord will rent them an apartment. Others will find themselves among the growing homeless population. Others still will take their own lives out of sheer hopelessness.
This is the truth of the military sex scandals. It’s a sad truth that’s difficult to swallow. It’s a truth few are willing to champion. It’s political suicide for anyone in power to speak about it. But it is still the truth.
Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.