The Australian Defence Force Academy & sexual abuse

From the website of Bernard Gaynor.
Republished with the permission of the author.

4 Corners ran a compelling and difficult to watch episode on Monday about sexual abuse in the ADF.

It highlighted allegations that some middle to senior ranked officers raped or sexually abused cadets at ADFA in the 1990s.

It also highlighted the vast difference between the legal system and justice.

Anyone who has thought about the topic of justice will know that true justice can only be given when there is true knowledge of all the facts. No one here on earth possesses that knowledge, so unfortunately it means we live in a world that is unjust to a greater or lesser extent.

Furthermore, anyone who has dealt with the legal system will know from bitter experience that it has little to do with justice and everything to do with rules. And most of those rules are not about justice, but about the legal process and legal bureaucracy.

And, for the most part, this cannot change. If there was a better way to structure the legal system, it would have happened long ago.

Rape is a particularly difficult issue to deal with. Because it often involves one person’s word against another’s, justice is difficult to provide. To simply accept the word of those claiming abuse over the word of those denying rape would destroy the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, is required before someone can be found guilty of rape in a criminal court. Just like all other criminal offences.

Administrative action can be taken, but the powers to do so are limited. If someone has not been found guilty of rape, the legal basis for administrative sanction against that person is very shaky. It is likely to be challenged and overturned. However, an organisation like the ADF could provide compensation payments or other support to the person alleging rape. This could help deliver some form of limited justice to the person raped, but it is risky. Any organisation that sets up a system to deliver compensation for rape and sexual abuse without that evidence being properly tested is setting up a system that will be abused.

Saying this does not provide me any joy. I am not suggesting that the allegations put forward by the women interviewed by 4 Corners are false. And, like all decent people, I want justice to be done. Unfortunately, there’s not much more that can be done without a conviction in court.

However, other actions can always be taken to reduce the risk of sexual abuse and rape at places like ADFA. Unfortunately, they are all politically incorrect and so they are never likely to occur.

If you take 1,000 young men and women from their homes, many of whom are below the age of 18, and put them in close living quarters with limited supervision, things will go wrong. It is an undeniable fact of life.

And quite often, the things that go wrong will be sexual.

So how do you reduce the risk of inappropriate sexual activity?

That’s easy. You pretty much do everything differently than what is being done at ADFA now.

For a start, providing mixed accommodation is a recipe for disaster. When I arrived at ADFA in 1999, male and female accommodation blocks were separated in first year. This has now changed because it is deemed politically incorrect for men and women to have separate showers, toilets and sleeping quarters.

You could also start enforcing lawful general orders that prohibit fraternisation between cadets, instead of encouraging it by placing bowls of condoms at various locations throughout ADFA. These orders were never enforced when I was an officer cadet and by all reports this rule is still a waste of time today.

Fraternisation was rife in 1999 and nothing has changed. The politically correct do gooders will argue that young cadets shouldn’t be punished for acting out their sexual urges. I’ll add that this is a great argument for the legalisation of rape as well. The best deterrence for serious sexual offences is to make sure the lesser ones don’t go unpunished.

Of course, separate sleeping quarters make fraternisation more difficult. And it is much easier to track when male and female cadets enter accommodation blocks that they have no need to be in.

Another problem at ADFA is pornography. Between 1999 and 2001, records available to cadets showed the most viewed websites over the ADFA network. By far, they were all pornographic. This is not surprising. The military is always going to be a male-dominated environment. The day this changes, it will no longer be the military.

And if you give an 18 year old bloke free access to the internet, you can bet that in almost all occasions he will visit pornographic websites. The exception is a real man of great character.

Anyone who argues that pornography is harmless is deluded. It is addictive, harmful and completely changes the way that men view women. Instead of being ladies that they should respect, they become objects to be abused.

A culture of pornography is only going to create a culture of sexual abuse. There is a culture of pornography at ADFA. I honestly do not know how it is possible to change this, given technological advances. But it must be acknowledged that pornographic consumption takes up most of the bandwidth at this military training institution.

Another cultural problem is the ADF’s decision to march at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. When ADF members march with almost entirely nude men and women engaged in lewd public displays of unacceptable sexual behaviour, it sends a very strong message that there are no sexual boundaries. And this year, the bulk of ADF members marching down Oxford Street were cadets from ADFA.

Finally, the best way to reduce the risk of rape and sexual harassment is to develop men who respect women. Unfortunately, there is no quicker way to cause a man to lose respect for women than by placing them in a physical contest.

Make no bones about it, the military is a physical environment. Cadets compete in that environment. The strongest and fittest gain respect and they are generally the winners. The weaker ones generally lose. And while the military does a very good job of building teamwork as well, there is always going to be problems in a team where one person literally does not carry their weight.

Every single exercise I undertook at ADFA involved the male cadets carrying things that the females could not.

I do not say this to denigrate women. This is no more denigrating than highlighting the fact that men can’t breastfeed. The sexes are different. The modern military of the modern society pretends that they are not and then complains when human nature wins out over political correctness.

It is impossible to treat women like women when everyone is trying to make them like men. And at the end of the day, this is the root of the problem of sexual abuse at ADFA.

Chamber of Horrors”, 4 Corners (ABC), 9 June 2014 (Michael Brissenden and Clay Hichens)
ADFA & sexual abuse”, Bernard Gaynor, 10 June 2014

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