Evidence of the Military's Sexual Assault Blind Spot

88 Pages Posted: 27 May 2015 Last revised: 16 Apr 2016

Date Written: April 15, 2016


In response to the American military's perceived inability to handle sexual assault cases, many members of Congress have lost confidence in those who run the military justice system. Critics say that those who run the military justice system are sexist and perceive sexual assault cases differently than the public does.

This article is the first to empirically test that assertion. Further, this is the first study to focus on the military population that matters – those who actually run the military justice system.

This study finds that this narrow military population endorses two constructs that are associated with the acceptance of inaccurate rape schemas – traditional gender role beliefs and conservatism – to a much higher degree than the general population. Regression models based on these findings predict that in a test rape case, 54% of the general public would find the man guilty while only 41% of this narrow military population would.

This suggests that at the macro-level, those who run the military justice system may be honestly committed to resourcing the fight against sexual assault and to finding a solution to the problem. But at the micro-level, when looking at a particular case, they have an unconscious cognitive process that interferes with their ability to accurately solve it.

Keywords: criminal law, sexual assault, social psychology, empirical, military law, military justice

Suggested Citation

Carpenter, Eric, Evidence of the Military's Sexual Assault Blind Spot (April 15, 2016). 4 Va. J. Crim. L. 154 (2016), Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2598187

Eric Carpenter (Contact Author)

FIU College of Law ( email )

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