CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Grassbaugh on Sexual Assault and Gender Neutrality in Combat

Jenna C Grassbaugh has posted The Opaque Glass Ceiling: How Will Gender Neutrality in Combat Affect Military Sexual Assault Prevalence, Prevention, and Prosecution? (Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2014) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

From 1994 until 2013, 237,000 combat arms positions in the military remained closed to women. In theory, however, that all changed on January 24, 2013, when military officials announced their intention to formally lift the ban on women serving in combat positions. Although thousands of women have distinguished themselves over the past thirteen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, their successes in battle have frequently been overshadowed by their inability to seek the same career progressing opportunities as their male counterparts.

On the other hand, while the number of women participating in "front-line" combat has increased, so too have sexual assaults. An alarming number of recent studies suggest a far higher prevalence of sexual misconduct against women in war zones than is reflected by complaints otherwise gathered by the various service branches. Thus, although the eradication of the combat ban sounds historic and progressive, the less popular view is that the policy will prove far less revolutionary in practice due to the prevalence of the sexual assault crisis. 

This article explores the seemingly paradoxical relationship between the two phenomena. Part I details the nature of the ongoing sexual assault crisis, including past and present attempts at reform; Part II describes the nature of the proposed inclusion policy, including challenges associated with integration; Part III considers the relationship between sexual assaults and the proposed inclusion policy; and Part IV advocates for a change in deep-rooted military culture to reduce sexual assaults and facilitate the transition from a gender-restrictive to a gender-neutral force. In essence, this article argues that because the policy of opening historically male-only combat positions to women will cause an increase in the frequency of service-member on service-member sexual assaults, nothing short of a drastic change in military culture will ensure the long-term success of such a policy.

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