The Pentagon has pulled a brochure on sexual assault that was advising women at a South Carolina Air Force base that sometimes it’s best to submit to an attack.
“It may be advisable to submit than to resist,” the brochure said. “You have to make this decision based on circumstances. Be especially careful if the attacker has a weapon.”
The brochure was handed out at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. It’s not clear where else the brochure was distributed.
A Joint Base Charleston spokesperson did not respond to questions on whether the pamphlet had been seen or heard of by anyone locally. In 2009 the base took part in a Department of Defense initiative to curb sexual assaults.
A local expert on sexual assaults lauded the decision to pull the pamphlet.
“I would agree with pulling a statement like that,” said Dean Kilpatrick, president of People Against Rape in Charleston. “If you look at one isolated sentence, it might not look like a big deal,” he said. “But that sentence occurs in a context ... that has communicated an attitude that we don’t take women seriously.”
Kilpatrick also is a distinguished professor of clinical psychology at the Medical University of South Carolina and works with the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. He was in Washington, D.C., Tuesday consulting with independent researchers looking at sexual assaults on Air Force bases.
He said it’s true that sometimes a rape victim has no choice but to submit or be killed, especially if the attacker has a weapon, as the brochure points out. But talking about submitting to sexual assaults might not be the best advice on a military base, he said, especially in the context of how the military has handled sexual assaults in the past.
“When we’re telling victims what to do and what not to do, we really should be telling perpetrators to quit raping people,” he said. “I wish they would send out some advice along that line.”
The Pentagon recalled the brochure and promised to review other sexual-assault materials after a complaint from Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. She called the advice in the brochure “shockingly inappropriate” as the military struggles with the problem of sexual assault.
“No service member wearing the uniform of the United States military should ever be told ‘it may be advisable to submit than to resist’ in the case of a sexual assault,” Slaughter said in a statement Tuesday. “I am cautiously optimistic about the Pentagon’s agreement to review all sexual assault prevention materials. We have to change the military culture if we want to stop this epidemic of sexual assault, and this response is a step in the right direction and a small victory for victims.”
Slaughter released a copy of a letter she received Tuesday from the Pentagon in response to a complaint she made in May.
“We have reviewed the Shaw Air Force Base brochure you mentioned in your letter,” Jessica Wright, acting undersecretary of defense, wrote to Slaughter. “We share your concerns over some of the materials presented, and the Air Force has withdrawn the brochure from circulation.”
The letter was dated June 20, received by Slaughter’s office during last week’s congressional recess, and was released Tuesday.
The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel. While the number of sexual assaults that members of the military actually reported rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012, thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes, the report said.
The Associated Press and Schuyler Kropf of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.