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June 8th / 9th, 2013

"Segregation is the Solution to Sexual Assaults"

Female and male cadets Last month Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested in Washington DC after he assaulted a woman in a parking lot. But Krusinski isn’t just any run-of-the-mill attacker. He is a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force, and the man who had been put in charge of preventing sexual assaults. Meanwhile, 1500 miles to the south, the officer in charge of Fort Hood’s assault-response program is under investigation for “abusive sexual conduct.”

Unfortunately these are not isolated incidents. In 2011 there were 19,000 sexual assaults on female military personnel, and in 2012 that number grew to 26,000.

This despite the Pentagon’s many programs and initiatives that are supposed to prevent such behavior. The problem is so bad that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told this year’s West Point graduating class, “Sexual harassment in the military is a scourge.” But recognizing the problem is one thing. Fixing it is quite another.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with military bases having sexual-assault prevention programs, but the steady rise in sexual-assault cases is an indication that those programs have failed miserably. To make matters worse, that failure isn’t just based on the number of assaults, but on what happens afterwards. Last month the Pentagon reported that more than 60 percent of female soldiers who have been sexually assaulted are still forced to have contact with, and endure retaliation from, their attackers. This week the Senate is holding a hearing on how to deal with that problem. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told reporters, “We need a system that encourages victims to come forward, knowing that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.” Boxer is right, but punishment is not prevention. Moreover, common sense would dictate that, at the very least, military authorities should keep victims and attackers in separate units. But that too would be a reactionary, Band-Aid solution rather than a truly preventative one. The only viable way to prevent male soldiers from sexually harassing and assaulting female soldiers is to thoroughly segregate the sexes. Yes, I just invoked the “S” word, and I stand by it.

In 1993, I was commissioned by the Virginia Military Institute’s Alumni Task Force to produce a television documentary in support of preserving single-sex education at service academies. By then, West Point had already been pressured into admitting female cadets, but the experiment was less than a rousing success. Out of the first 119 women enrolled, 57 dropped out. Meanwhile, VMI and the Citadel were battling in court to remain all-male institutions.

Featured in the documentary were VMI cadets and alum, but also included were female presidents and alumni of single-sex colleges. All of them supported VMI’s legal fight, and all of them espoused the benefits of single-sex education, including one very obvious and implied benefit. Women enrolled in single-sex schools never get harassed or assaulted by male fellow students.

Despite those testimonials and the work of a high-priced legal team, VMI was losing ground in court, so the institute’s board of trustees proposed a compromise plan which would have established an identical, parallel program for women rather than integrate the sexes. But VMI relied heavily on taxpayer funding which would have ended without a fully integrated plan, so the school gave in and admitted women. Facing a similar problem, the Citadel finally admitted its first female cadet in 1995. But Shannon Faulkner was harassed and threatened by male cadets, and she left school after only a week. Social engineers believed such harassment would diminish with time. They were wrong.

Fast forward to 2013. A female cadet is now suing West Point for allowing her to be sexually assaulted by an upperclassman. According to a report by NBC news, the woman went out drinking with the male cadet, then went up to his room and stayed there for most of the night. She later claimed that he forced her to have sex. These attacks will continue until we segregate the sexes at military installations.

I know what you’re thinking. Blacks aren’t segregated in the military because that would be discriminatory, so that must mean gender segregation is discriminatory as well. It isn’t. Robert Bobb, former city manager of Richmond, Va. and an African-American graduate of VMI, told me, “Exclusion is not necessarily discrimination.” And Doug Wilder, the first black governor of Virginia and a Bronze Star recipient in the Korean War told me, “The courts have ruled that you don’t apply the same test as to what is discrimination” as it applies to race versus gender.

Given the number of crimes being committed against female personnel, something must be done to prevent sexual assaults, not just reform the way we deal with them after the fact. Congress must amend its policy on women in the military by segregating the sexes from classroom to battlefield. Our brave female cadets and soldiers deserve to be protected while they serve.