The U.S. Military Just Took a Cue From Saudi Arabia and Convicted a Drunken Woman Of "Attempted Adultery"

The Los Angeles Times reports that a female staff sergeant in the Marine Corps has been convicted by a military judge of "attempted adultery" and lying to investigators. Her pay was docked $3,000 and she was given a letter of reprimand for the offense. According to testimony, the two staff sergeants went to a motel after a day of heavy drinking. The woman claims she was too drunk to consent to sex, but was given the attempted adultery conviction for going to a motel with a man who was not her husband. The unmarried man was not charged with a crime.

Despite the woman initially reporting the incident as sexual assault, and a toxicologist testifying that she was probably close to a "drunken stupor," the verdict made no reference to assault whatsoever.

This case raises several concerns within the military justice system. The idea of criminalizing adultery is by itself troubling enough, but the fact that in a case of reported sexual assault the military ended up punishing the victim and not the perpetrator is particularly damning. Saudi Arabia, which has probably one of the most oppressive justice systems in the world, has a history littered with similar convictions (although admittedly hands out far more draconian punishments). Any aspect of U.S. justice resembling that of the Saudis, however, should be a cause for some serious introspection.

In an era when sexual assault in the military has finally become an issue that warrants attention, it seems the military justice system is bent on being regressive.