A sexual assault case reveals an unbalanced military justice system
Which is worse: a sexual assault by three fellow midshipmen near the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., or spending 20 hours over five days in a military courtroom fending off questions about one’s sexual history and the circumstances of the alleged attack?
The latter is what happened at the Washington Navy Yard beginning Aug. 27, when a female midshipman was cross-examined in a lengthy pretrial hearing designed to bring those allegedly involved to justice. The case helps explain why only 3,374 of an estimated 26,000 military members who experienced unwanted sexual contact last year filed complaints. “It is essentially the woman who is on trial, and the trial can be worse than the rape,” says retired Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, who served as the Army’s top psychiatrist and has testified in similar cases. “I have often thought that I would never report it if it happened to me.”