Opinion: USAF Pulls Sexual Assault Brochure…Because It States the Obvious

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com louise slaughter objects to USAF sexual assault brochureThe U.S. Air Force pulled a sexual assault prevention and response brochure this week – because it simply stated the obvious. The brochure, which was originally locally distributed to airmen at a base in North Carolina, came under fire from Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who singled out a passage that read:

“If you are attacked, it may be advisable to submit than to resist. You have to make this decision based on circumstances. Be especially careful if the attack has a weapon.”

Disregarding the grammatical issues, the passage, as originally written, is correct. Furthermore, it is obviously correct, and any four-year-old child could reach the same conclusion. Resistance is not a rational course of action in every case. If there are multiple armed attackers, for example, or if the victim is also responsible for the life of a small child who would be endangered she resists, or if the attacker already has such a jump on her and there is such an imbalance of strength or leverage that resistance would be hopeless, but simply invite further violence, severe injury at the hands of a sadistic psychopath, or death, then submitting until the situation changes may very well offer the best chance of survival against a violent and determined attack.

Indeed, violent criminals frequently choose to target the place and time of their attacks precisely because they can make active resistance a non-option for any rational victim. Resisting an assault attempt of a drunk “friend” is a very different decision than resisting a violent stranger with a knife to the throat or a gun to the head, or to a child’s head. 

Not every rapist conforms to Representative Slaughter’s assumptions concerning his modus operandi or motive. Some are easily deterred by resistance, and some will be simply emboldened to new heights of rage or cruelty. Only the victim in this case – the person on the scene – can make the decision whether to resist in hopes of escape or to submit in hopes of survival.

This is elementary – and well-known to criminologists. So it takes a lot of nerve to question it, or to try to second-guess the decisions made in real-time by victims of attack.

Unfortunately for the country, Representative Slaughter has that nerve. Indeed, not only does she object to the simple truth written in the pamphlet; she characterized the pamphlet’s accurate and reasonable advice as “shockingly offensive and inappropriate.” 

In a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Rep. Slaughter wrote, “Attached is a partial copy of the brochure from Shaw Air Force Base which contains multiple victim-blaming and inappropriate messages regarding sexual assault. Please review all the materials that your office uses, and employ the assistance of outside experts in sexual assault prevention and treatment in your efforts to ensure that the appropriate messages about sexual assault prevention and response are being provided to all servicewomen and men. We cannot perpetuate the myths of sexual assault and expect to see real change in the prevalence of such events at the same time.”

It is not clear to which of the crime prevention and coping techniques in the pamphlet Rep. Slaughter was referring. I read the pamphlet as published by her staff on her own Website, and wasn’t able to find a single sentence that could remotely be construed as “victim blaming” or “perpetuating the myths of sexual assault.”

The Department of Defense groveled to her when it responded, not by defending their reasonable pamphlet on the merits, but by simply withdrawing it from circulation. Because it is somehow preferable for female airmen stationed at Shaw to have no written guidelines or advice on how to protect themselves from sexual assault than to have access to this document.

“No service member wearing the uniform of the United States military should ever be told `it may be advisable to submit than to resist’ in the case of a sexual assault,” Slaughter said in a separate statement, though without any argument to advance her ridiculous assertion. “I am cautiously optimistic about the Pentagon’s agreement to review all sexual assault prevention materials. We have to change the military culture if we want to stop this epidemic of sexual assault, and this response is a step in the right direction and a small victory for victims.” 

Aside from being an insult to every rape or assault victim who felt she could not resist without risking more severe injury or death (Does Rep. Slaughter believe such a woman is somehow less because she made a judgment call that allowed her to survive?) Slaughter’s statement is so ill-thought-out and absurd that one is hard-pressed to believe it came from an adult mind. The obvious point of the passage was to give advice to those who may become victimized should efforts at prevention fail. Even if the DoD were somehow successful at eliminating sexual assaults on the part of servicemembers entirely, not every female servicemember who is attacked is attacked by another servicemember. This, too, is glaringly simple to grasp.

What is not so easy to grasp is why a member of Congress with no particular expertise in military affairs has so much time on her hands that she can concern herself with the micromanagement of the tiniest minutiae of the management of an Air Force Base not even in her district. 

It’s also unclear why it is the Air Force knuckled under to this kind of ignorant PC meddling from someone who has such a casual relationship with truth and who obviously doesn’t think very hard.

Then again, considering the fact that the Air Force just went through an exercise confiscating copies of Men’s Fitness magazine and images of WWII nose art because they may be offensive to women, the cravenness of Air Force officials, cowed by purveyors of political correctness beyond reason or parody, is becoming more predictable, if not more rational.  


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