Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sexual Assault at Westpoint: Leadership's Disregard of Human Rights

 Recently, a former West Point cadet filed suit based upon sexual harassment and sexual assault she suffered during her time at the academy.  The complaint describes not a system of neglect in failing to safe guard female cadets, but a deliberate failure to protect cadets from sexual assault while placing the burden of prevention on women. 

An amicus brief filed by Sandra Park of the ACLU outlines the lack of administrative response to sexual assault and other gender based harassment and violence.  Among the practices engaged in at the academy are the following:

        Permitted sexist chanting and comments directed toward female cadets.

        Provided sexual assault training that placed the burden on women.

        Required mandatory testing for sexually transmitted diseases for female cadets only.

        Ignored the Department of Defense's directives on sexual assault reporting.

        Fostered a system of retaliation against sexual assault survivors who filed complaints.

        In 2010, the Department of Defense found that 51% of female cadets  experienced gender related harassment.

        The same study found that 94% of female cadets experienced sexist behavior.

        In the same year, 9% of female cadets reported experiencing sexual assault.

        94% of those women reported their assailant as a fellow cadet.

The Defendants in the case, both of whom were responsible for cadet conduct and sexual harassment prevention, are, in the words of the amicus brief, "subject to suit for creating the policies and customs that caused or permitted the violation of Doe's equal protection right to an education free from sex discrimination."  The court has permitted this equal protection complaint to proceed.  The government has appealed, which resulted in the amicus brief filed on behalf of the ACLU and others.

Citing human rights law, the ACLU argues that "the right to state protection from gender-based violence and a government's concomitant due diligence obligation to effectively prevent, respond to, and remedy such violence is now so universally accepted that it has acquired the status of customary human rights law."

 Indeed, "gender-based violence, which impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms under general international law or under human rights conventions, is discrimination within the meaning of article 1 of [CEDAW]."

One question asked at one of the presidential debates is whether or not the candidates favored including women in any potential draft.  The answer that none of the candidates gave is that until the military protects members of vulnerable populations from sexual assault, the question is premature.




Gender Violence, Margaret Drew, Military | Permalink


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