There's a thread in the Doonesbury cartoon about Spc. Melissa Wheeler, a deployed helicopter mechanic who is the victim of command rape but who, through therapy and the help of friends, remains on duty.
In a Saturday report on military sexual violence, my colleague Kristen Moulton wrote about a seminar that featured discussions and a documentary on military sexual trauma and its effects on men and women who have been assaulted while serving. What got to me was that one officer called the film "a kick in the gut" that he wants shown to all leaders in the Utah National Guard.
Sexual abuse of men and women has been going on for years, decades, centuries. But even today, those afflicted can be ignored, even punished, if they report a fellow service member. Commanders often ignore the crimes because they don't believe the accuser, or that it might make their units look bad, or because they are the attackers.
In April, the Department of Defense said that in fiscal 2011, there were 3,192 reports of sexual assault involving service members who were either victims or subjects, also known as perpetrators.
That's a 10 percentage point increase over fiscal 2010, and the Pentagon estimated the number represented just over 13 percent of the sex crimes that actually occurred.
The victims can be women and men, gay and straight, white or of color. They are sailors, Coast Guard, soldiers and Marines, and none of them deserves the abuse or their leaders' failure to recognize the problem.
It's notable, though, that only 791 perps were disciplined and just 489 had court-martial charges filed against them.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has acknowledged the breadth and scope of the problem of military rape and sexual assault, calling it "a silent epidemic," the San Francisco Examiner reported recently. The newspaper also reported that the military doesn't keep a registry of convicted sex offenders, meaning that guilty parties often continue their service and even discharged into civilian life with little-to-no public record of their crimes.
That's infuriating in a time when women have served honorably in a number of roles alongside men, including combat, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military sexual trauma demeans them all.
The Defense Department has initiated its Sexual Assault Prevention and Responses Office, which includes legal assistance, expedited transfers for victims of sexual assault and extended retention of forensic examinations and investigative reports, among other services.
My father, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends who have served have said their principal job was to take care of themselves and their buddies. All military women and men deserve such care, from the bottom to the upper echelons.
In the end, it's about the enduring concept of military honor.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at email@example.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.