27 March 2007

New York Times

New motto:

All the news that's fit to print, padded with whatever fiction gives our editorial board a warm fuzzy.

OK, I got this story from a blog who pointed to a FOX News article on the subject.

But the New York Times Editor's Note references as the basis of the Fox story is here.

The original story requires registration, and I don't feel like it. Don't need it anyway, because I have a pretty strong feeling about the original story. Unlike the New York Times, I'll tell you I'm speculating here that the original story was pretty slanted, "blahblahblah, the military is full of sexists and rapists, blahblahblah."

Don't get me wrong: Rape happens in the military. It is more or less inevitable that when you have half a million or so young, healthy males, some tiny percentage of them will be the sort of scumball that would sexually assault someone.

It's also true that you're safer as a woman in the military than at a college campus.

The military sexual assault rate is 70 per 100,000 members, as of 2003. That's only reported sexual assaults, and many sexual assaults aren't reported. Any numbers other than those of REPORTED sexual assaults are what we call "Wild Guesses". You can find "estimates" of sexual assault frequency which suggests between half and 90% of sexual assaults go unreported. Do note, however, that is all sexual assaults, which is basically any incident in which a person is touched in an unwanted sexual manner, whether there was an actual rape or not.

Forcible Rape happens at about 34 per 100,000 in the civilian world. That's defined as forcible intercourse with violence or threat of violence. I can't find national-level statistics for any other types of rape (so-called 'date rape' or similar instances) or for sexual assaults that don't involve penetration that meets the definition of rape.

So if you are going to do a story on sexual assault in the military, there's plenty of women out there to interview. If they aren't comfortable giving personal details you can slap a pseudonym on them. But this female with a lurid tale of combat, IEDs, brain damage, and multiple forcible rapes makes great press. So of course, the New York Times will run her story even though they can't verify it. Even though the Navy tells them, before the deadline, there is no record of her being in Iraq. It takes the Navy a couple more days to track down the details of where the female was and what she was doing, and it turns out that she was indeed deployed.

To Guam.

Where she never reported any sexual assault of any kind.

And certainly never saw combat or IEDs.

My favorite line in the correction:

"Since the article appeared, Ms. Randall herself has questioned another member of her unit, who told Ms. Randall that she was not deployed to Iraq. If The Times had learned these facts before publication, it would not have included Ms. Randall in the article."

Ummmm. . . Are you trying to tell us that Ms Randall is either stupid or brain damaged to the point that she can't tell the difference between a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean full of friendly Guamanians, and a huge freakin' desert full of Arabs trying to kill you?

What in the name of Gloria Steinem makes you think she's a reliable source? Even after the Navy can't confirm she was actually in Iraq?

Oh, yeah. She's a victim of the horrible oppressive patriarchal military blahblahblahblah.

Wake me when the New York Times starts reporting news again.

I wonder (just speculating here folks) whether the original story addressed the way the military actually handles reported sexual assaults or discusses the mandatory sexual assault prevention classes we conduct quarterly. Not sure what else we can do to prevent that sort of thing.


Anonymous jdub said...

I've read it, largely because my wife (who is a shrink and specializes in psych trauma treatment) brought it home. My wife used to work in a VA and found a number of women with PTSD caused by sexual abuse, most of which occurred before they entered the military. Some of them were then sexually abused again in the military. Note that none of them had seen any combat (this was before the current wars).

The article itself was pretty biased. In at least several of the cases, it was completely unclear as to whether (a) there had been any sexual abuse; (b) there had been any psych trauma from seeing any kind of combat or violence. In several of the cases, it also seemed possible that the PTSD label (and the sex abuse stuff) had been slapped on last second as a way to avoid going back to Iraq (IIRC, at least one of the women went AWOL when her MP unit went back for a second tour). To the limited credit of the NYT, they did point out some of those issues. But the article was pretty slanted.

I have a hard copy that I can pdf and email you if you want to read it.

7:49 PM  

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