Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh has discovered the problem behind the increase in sexual assault in the military. The answer? America’s hookup culture. Apparently, the military, its leadership, and its culture have nothing to do with and no responsibility to solve it. It may sound like a joke. Unfortunately, he seems to mean every word.
Speaking before, the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Welsh said, "So they come in from a society where this occurs. Some of it is the hookup mentality of junior high even and high school students now.”
Apparently, because high school students are having consensual casual sex, military officers are excused when they do not get consent.
In case that argument fails to persuade, General Welsh wants everyone to know that everyone else is falling down on the job as well. He said, 20% of military women reporting being sexually assaulted “before they came into the military.” Apparently, just because no one else has found a way to stop sexual assault entirely, the military should not punish soldiers who sexually assault their colleagues, their brothers-and-sisters-in-arms.
General Walsh has good reason to want this explanation to stick. If these points are true — if it is the outside culture, not the military — then the military does not have to change.
Then the military does not have to change its policy, for instance, for adjudicating sexual assault. Currently, the military allows members of the chain of command to determine which sexual assault cases are investigated or prosecuted or to void the verdicts and punishments after trials have occurred. Said one sexual assault survivor, former army cadet Kole Welsh, “They have not eliminated the ability of a single officer to prevent a victim from accessing the military’s judicial system. The reality is that this officer may well be a sexual predator himself.”
That problem might strike anyone besides General Welsh as particularly problematic when the military leaders are men like Jeffrey Sinclair, a brigadier general in the Army for 27 years, or Jeffrey Krusinski, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel tasked with heading the Sexual Assault Prevent and Response branch of the Air Force. These men, both charged with sexual assault, have the power to shield rapists from investigation, prosecution, or punishment.
However, since the military is not different than anyone else and sexual assault is just part of American culture, then the military does not need to do anything to punish it. It does not need to ensure that officers are not intervening to protect soldiers who sexually assault their compatriots — people who the rest of society calls criminals. After all, it is just a “hookup,” even if the victim did not consent.
This statement by the Air Force Chief of Staff is horrifically offensive victim blaming that removes the onus on the perpetrator and shifts responsibility away from those who are meant to punish those criminals. To quote Senator Kirsten Gillibrand — the first woman to chair the personnel subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee and the senator who introduced a bill to remove felony crimes from the chain of command — his testimony was “outrageous.”