Will the Army need an actual litmus test to determine whether sexual activity is love or fraternization or full-blown assault?
Sometimes it seems a reliable test would help. This week the Killeen Daily Herald reported on the case of First Lieutenant Karnesha Rossom and Sgt. 1st Class Luis Rivera Jr.
“In April 2012, Rossom had a conversation with her commanding officer, Capt. Amanda Dodd, in which the captain asked about the noticeably pregnant Rossom in small talk. Rossom then revealed Rivera was her husband and the father of the child.”Captain Dodd then filed fraternization charges--even though the couple was already married. Now both Rossom and Rivera may be facing prison time if convicted.
While I am all for good order and discipline, prosecuting this kind of case seems like a giant waste of time and money, doesn’t it? It seems to dilute real cases of coercion and sexual misconduct and sexual assault in the military.
Because what is going on between Rossom and Rivera isn’t criminal activity. This, Dear Army, is known as dating. This kind of behavior is looked upon by the rest of the world as “meeting your mate.”
Servicemembers do meet each other at work, date, have sex, and sometimes marry. At SpouseBuzz, we never have a live event in which we do not ask how many of the spouses present have served in the military themselves. Ten to 20% of the audience members generally stand up.
We are never surprised. Because at SpouseBuzz we understand that Americans meet their mates at work. That is where we spend the most time. Those are the people we see most often—especially in the military.
Why is it so hard to understand that meeting at work isn’t just for power couples like Barak and Michelle Obama. It isn’t just the Bill Gates of the world who meet their Melindas in the office. It isn’t only Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie whose eyes meet at the elevator while sparks fly.
Various studies report that somewhere between 12 – 20% of couples meet their mate at work. According to CareerBuilder’s annual office romance survey, 39% of those surveyed reported that they had dated someone at work at least once during their career. A full thirty percent of those who did date a coworker said that relationship led straight to marriage.
That is going to happen in the military, too—no matter how many regulations govern behavior.
Yet I expect to see more cases like this filed in the next few years. As we eliminate tolerance for sexual misconduct (good!), there will be more commanders who feel they must file charges against everything or be seen as brushing things under the rug.
So maybe we really do need a litmus test. Maybe we need the Army’s awesome resources to develop a filter strip to be dipped into the sexual event in question. If the strip comes out pink, it must be love (or extreme mutual hotness). If it comes out as black as Heart of Darkness it must be assault. Those many shades of gray in between will all be a problem of their own.