Professor of Gender and War. University of Sydney

Congresswoman calls out Defense Secretary’s comments on military sexual assault

SUMMARY: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has raised concerns that women in combat will be vulnerable to sexual assault, during his address at Georgetown University. In response, Republican Arizona Congresswoman and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Martha McSally, said in a video played at the Women in International Security event in Washington that, in her view, Carter’s response suggested closing down opportunities for women to serve in combat roles. The underlying premise of her argument is that there is a prevalent attitude in the military that a woman’s presence in a combat unit will result in sexual assault, which shifts the blame from perpetrator to victim. As McSally said, ‘if you have a perpetrator or a potential perpetrator in a unit, we need to rat out the perpetrator, not close down the opportunity of women to be in that unit because we have potential perpetrators in that unit.’ McSally likens Carters remarks with the ‘kind of logic’ the Taliban and other extremist organisations use to suppress women. McSally has gained notoriety for her ‘successful challenge of the Pentagon policy that required U.S. servicewomen to wear Muslim garb when travelling off-base in Saudi Arabia.’

SOURCE: Jamie Crawford, April 29 2015, ‘Congresswoman rips Defense Secretary, says women in combat could open opportunity for predators,’ CNN,

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