(Trigger warning: While this post does not discuss rapes and assaults in detail, the article linked in the first paragraph does.)
On Valentine’s Day, Rolling Stone published an article titled The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer. In meticulous and horrifying detail it traces the experiences of Petty Officer 2nd Class Rebecca Blumer as she is drugged and raped, arrested, and given delayed and cursory medical attention. The article continues to follow Blumer’s story as she has her security clearance suspended, is repeatedly accused of making up her story, and is discharged from military service for the DUI caused by the date rape drugs she was given.
It is an infuriating story, and made all the more infuriating by being interposed with similar details from other cases of other military rape victims. It is infuriating, but it is not news.
What happened to Petty Officer Blumer is, quite simply, what we have seen happen over and over again to rape victims, particularly when they are part of a larger self-protective institution like a military, or a church, or a university. First, the rapist violates consent and then the institution protects itself by protecting the rapist.
This is why rape is not just an issue for women or for feminists or for victims. This is why rape is, or ought to become, an issue for libertarians to discuss with the same vigor and passion we bring to debates about taxation, the TSA, and government regulation.
Rape is a violation of everything that is most central to the libertarian philosophy. We believe that interactions should be peaceful exchanges between consenting parties. Rape brutally violates all three of those terms. It is not peaceful. It is not an exchange. And it is anything but consensual. We should be screaming about this. Why are we not screaming?
The further layer of violation that is added when institutions circle their wagons to protect themselves is an additional offense to the victims. It is also an additional reason for libertarians to care about rape and to speak out against it. Because we care enormously about growing institutions that function well, we are aware of the dangers that come into play in dysfunctional institutions. We know a few things about the political economy of bureaucracies, after all. We know that there are incentives that explain why the military would choose not to prosecute Blumer’s rapist. We know that there are incentives that explain why Penn State would elect to decline to deal with the “Sandusky problem.” We know that there are the incentives that explain why churches keep quiet about clergy who rape. We know that there are incentives that explain why campus rape is handled so ineptly so often. We should be talking about this. Why are we not talking?
Rape is private matter. It is an intimate crime, and the individual who is raped suffers horribly. But rape is also a crime against the beliefs that libertarians hold most deeply. We should be angrier. Why are we not angrier?