Responding to news that the Pentagon will formally relax rules forbidding women from serving in combat, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta said on the cable network last Sunday that the real issue is about women serving in the military more broadly. Referring to a recent report that violent sex crimes within the military have increased over the last 6 years, Trotta said women service members should “expect” sexual assault and complained about levels of bureaucracy that support women who have been “raped too much.”
Now, Trotta is facing some backlash. Kayla Williams, a former sergeant and Arabic linguist in the 101st Airborne Division who also served in Iraq, told ThinkProgress that the “level of ignorance” in Trotta’s comments is “astounding”:
Trotta’s implication that women “in close contact” with men should “expect” to be sexually assaulted is breathtakingly offensive, as is her baffling reference to women “who are now being raped too much.” Frankly, I don’t even know how to respond to someone who holds such a low opinion of those who risk their lives in defense of our country every day.
And Anu Bhagwati, Executive Director of the Service Women’s Action Network, also issued this statement, noting that Trotta’s disturbing comments are based on a series of myths about men and women serving together in the military:
It has become a desperate but popular myth among commentators recently that women’s presence in the military necessarily means they will get raped. First, the mere presence of women in the workplace does not turn men into rapists. Second, the majority of victims of military rape over time have been men. In fact, half of the Military Sexual Trauma patients being treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals today are men.
Bhagwati adds that the issue isn’t men and women serving together, it’s the “broken” U.S. military justice system which currently offers “few deterrents to rapists or the commanders who protect them. Serial predators can largely expect to enjoy full military careers without ever being punished for the violent crimes they commit.”
Media Matters reports that Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) called Trotta’s comments “shameful” and “abhorrent.” “Contrary to Trotta’s comments, being a victim of rape or sexual assault is not in the job description of a US Service Member,” Speier said.