Internal War


Natalie Handelsman


The subject for my research paper is on female military sexual assault in the United States military. According to the United States Army Study Guide, sexual assault is defined as “intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority of when the victim does not or cannot consent.” My main research question for this paper is how positions of power in the US military play a role in these sexual assaults, rapes, and reporting’s of the incidences. I will also be asking questions about what we can do to change the current system that victims of the military must go through when reporting these cases and what we can do to help that, as well as prevent further incidences from happening.


I wanted to address the topic because it was only briefly discussed in the humanities core class and it was something that really surprised and intrigued me. I did not realize how bad the situation was or how people in the military had different legal rights than normal civilians when reporting these issues. The subject really hit home for me because I actually know someone who is in the ROTC program here at the University of California Irvine and is about to be involved in the exact military that is allowing these things to happen. I think it is my duty as a human being, but especially as a woman, to try and change what is happening. At the very least just be educated on the topic and perhaps inform her about the issue as well. I think that this is an issue that really can be changed, the fact that it has not yet really baffles me.


Other people have written legal articles, journal entries, made films and documentaries. I hope to tie together all of these aspects as well as bringing in a humanistic and analytical approach to the issue, bringing in reasons why I think this happens and what I think entitles people to allowing these sexual assaults to happen or committing it themselves. I hope to also provide as much legal stance as I can to back up my claims, as well as anecdotes from survivors and victims. My main goal is to inform the reader of the topic in all aspects I can and hopefully encourage them to get involved and help change the situation.


The preliminary claims that I can assert about my topic would be that the positions of power in the United States military entitle some individuals into abusing this said power. Another example I can use regarding this issue that is not directly related to the military but relates to the claim is the Stanford Prison Experiment. My other main claim is that the laws regarding the issue in the military must be changed and should not be reported to ones commander, or anyone in a higher position of power in the military for that matter. It should be reported in the same way that a normal civilian can report a crime. This way it protects the victims and the person has an unbiased view.


One of my main sources that I will be using is a legal article written by Joel Marrero, who is a fair housing and civil rights attorney with the Southern California Housing Rights Center. He gained his Juris Doctorate at the UCLA School of Law. This is a secondary source that goes into great detail the legal issues with the United States military sexual assault process. Another source I will be using will be the film “The Invisible War”, by Kirby Dick who is an Academy and Emmy Award nominated documentary director who would direct the film in 2006, which was revolutionary in the investigation of female military assault in the United States Army. This was one of the first big films to be released about the subject, and documents real stories from women who were now willing to speak up about their tragedies.


The immediate challenges are finding “reliable” accounts. Many are written on blogsites or written anonymously, which some people may take as unscholarly or unreliable. It has also been hard to find any other documentaries besides “The Invisible War.” I think that for now I need to focus a lot on the legal aspect of the issue because it is the one that I have the least background on and will most likely take the longest to read and comprehend.












My Duty to Speak “Drugged and Raped in Germany.” Anonymous. Managing     Editor Panayiota Berzikis. Aug. 11, 2015.


The Invisible War. Dir. Kirby Dick. Prod. Amy Ziering. May 13, 2013. Film.


“Military Sexual Assault Epidemic.” Artist Martin Kozlowski. Published. May 7, 2013.


Hoppen, Jane. “Women in the Military: Who’s Got Your Back?” Off Our Backs.

Jul2006, Vol. 36 Issue 2, p14-16. 3p. Print.


Marrero, Joel. “Reframing and Reconstituting Normative Views of Military                                   Trauma: Moving Beyond Gendered Paradigms and Correcting Policies That Unduly and Unlawfully Subject Non-combat Trauma claims to Stricter Scrutiny” Indiana Law Review. 2014, Vol. 47 Issue 2, p509-541. 33p. Print.


Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network “Reporting to Law Enforcement.” RAINN 2009.


Zimbardo, P. The Stanford Prison Experiment. 1971 – Stanford.


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