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Army rape case renews debate on coed training

simpson April 30, 1997
Web posted at: 1:21 p.m. EDT (1721 GMT)

In this story:

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland (CNN) -- As a former Army drill sergeant awaits sentencing for raping his trainees, critics of men and women serving together in the U.S. military have new grounds for their argument that it does more harm than good.

Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson, 32, was convicted Tuesday of raping six female trainees a total of 18 times in the most serious case yet to come out of the sex scandal that has shaken the Army and prompted investigations at installations worldwide.

He could be sentenced to life in prison at a hearing on Monday. The verdict will be reviewed by Army judges and could be appealed by Simpson.

He previously pleaded guilty to having consensual sex with 11 trainees, including five of the rape victims. Sexual relations between Army superiors and their underlings can lead to prosecution against both parties, even when the sex is consensual.

'Cry rape' critic

shorter quote

Because of the conflicting "he said, she said" evidence that convicted Simpson, his lawyers charge the ability of trainees to "cry rape" had led to a breakdown of military authority.

"If women can just make an accusation and bring a drill sergeant down, that gives a lot of power to women and trainees," said Frank Spinner, one of Simpson's attorneys.

A spokesman for the Army's Ordnance School, where soldiers are taught to be heavy vehicle mechanics, insists such a charge is preposterous. But some drill instructors acknowledge their power is slipping.

"We're not as aggressive anymore toward the trainees," said Staff Sgt. Mariana Shorter, a female drill instructor at Aberdeen. "Because the trainees know now that if they cry to a certain degree, we're removed."

The Rev. Marie deYoung, a former Army chaplain, argues the problem is the military's policy of prosecuting only higher-ranking offenders.

Young privates -- both male and female -- realize "they can avoid discipline by filing an accusation against someone else," deYoung told CNN. icon (340K/16 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Separate training?

She recommends the military revert to its former policy of training men and women separately. "With gender-segregated training there was no sex between trainees," deYoung said.

"Now we have trainees who come from basic training to their first assignment and they're pregnant."

But Shorter believes returning to segregated training would be a step back for women. "Eventually we will end up on the battlefield together. What do we do then?"

Scandal spreads far

kennedy quote

Since the scandal involving Simpson and other soldiers accused of sexual misconduct broke in November, the Army has fielded more than 1,200 sexual misconduct complaints and opened more than 300 criminal investigations at installations around the world.

But the Army's highest ranking female officer rejects the phrase "sex scandal."

"Sex is the tool but the agenda is power and control," said Maj. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, adding that "significant numbers of men have been harassed as well." icon (357K/17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

The scandal at the Aberdeen training base has sent shockwaves through the Army, and prompted a review that will consider whether men and women should train together, especially at first.

But as warfare becomes more high-tech, Army leaders say they need women in the ranks and they insist it's not too much to expect both sexes to obey the rules.


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