In an era when victims’ interests and the failures of the Department of Defense to adequately address sexual assault within its ranks are constant messages, perhaps SSgt Marks’s experience will remind us of the traumas suffered by the innocents accused and serve as a caution to those wielding the awesome power to prosecute.
That’s the final sentence of a compelling article in the most recent issue of the Air Force Reporter: Major Christopher J. Goewert, The Accused The Unacknowledged Victim of the Military’s Robust Prosecution of Sexual Assault, The Reporter, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2016) (direct link to article).
The article describes a sexual encounter, a subsequent (and lengthy) investigation, and the eventual acquittal of an Air Force accused (SSgt Marks is a pseudonym):
The investigation continued for over a year as determined agents located all of the party-goers and obtained statements which painted a picture of a consensual group romp—a spur of the moment orgy, which was embarrassing in retrospect, but to the guests was not criminal. SSgt Marks was duly charged with wrongful sexual contact and indecent acts.
The author’s use of the term duly charged is, itself, a little terrifying. But the article includes details of actual terror experienced by the accused:
My mind overflowed with the thoughts of what could happen: the odds were not in my favor. I was worried that everyone would believe her because she was saying she was a victim and wouldn’t believe in me. I felt like the decision was already made and I was fighting a losing battle—it was like I saw a wrongful judgment would be forced on me and there was nothing anyone could do to change it. I broke down and cried a handful of times. I became fatalistic about it.