Sexual assault is a crime, not a punch line

On Wednesday night, Comedy Central aired the season premiere of a show called Workaholics. The show featured a storyline in which a group of characters meant to be Coast Guard recruiters were depicted in a vile hazing incident which included both an illegal criminal act of sexual assault and the involvement of a dog. The show went on to include a scene in which these same characters agreed to take part in a pornographic movie.

Photo of Rear Adm. Peter Gautier. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Earlier today, I joined Rear Adm. Marshall Lytle, chair of the Coast Guard Sexual Assault Prevention Council, and Rear Adm. Steven Poulin, The Judge Advocate General of the Coast Guard, in signing a letter to Comedy Central and its parent company, Viacom. In the letter, we reiterated that by airing this episode making light of the crime of sexual assault, Comedy Central and Viacom reinforced negative stereotypes and misperceptions that not only desensitize the crime of sexual assault but also degrade the victims of these heinous crimes. There is nothing funny about sexual assault.

We could not stand by and let this abhorrent fictional display of military culture go unchallenged anymore than you would stand by if this actually happened to one of your shipmates. That’s what we expect from each and every one of you and that’s what you should expect from us. Together, we will change our culture and drive sexual assault out of our Service.

Rear Adm. Peter Gautier
U.S. Coast Guard
Director, Governmental and Public Affairs

Letter to Comedy Central_Page One

Letter to Comedy Central_Page Two

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9 Responses

  1. Hopley Yeaton says:

    Two words – Streisand effect. More people watched “Robot Chicken” on Wednesday, I’m glad we gave this more publicity…

  2. Patrick Stansberry says:

    Would you enlist a person that was hospitalized because of sexual assault? Would you make the assault public in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974?

  3. Michelle Bressi says:

    Thank you for speaking up!!

  4. jimbo says:

    Admiral, Sir. As offensive as the episode was. As Coast Guardsmen, we protect the freedom of speech. Just like police officers who have to protect protestors who spit venom for Law Enforcement. I stand behind any American’s freedoms guarnteed by the constitution. Even if it does not coincide with the current state of the Coast Guard or is offensive to my profession.

  5. mariposa says:

    “jimbo”: Protecting the 1st Amendment, and calling to task those individuals who have exercised their freedom in such an abhorrent manner, are not mutually exclusive. I am pleased to see that there are people in such positions of power and influence willing to exercise their 1st Amendment rights to castigate the individuals responsible for the offensive and inappropriate ‘speech’ aired during this Comedy Central episode.

  6. Steve Carpenter says:

    I have to agree with mariposa. Jimbo, No one questioned the constitutional right to freedom of speech, in fact the Admirals specifically said they had the right to do what they did however the broadcast did not support the Coast Guard’s core values. As one who grew up in an age of “the drunk sailor and foul language” I can tell you first hand how detrimental such a TV broadcast is to the image the military currently enjoy with thoses that have never served. Be thankful the leadership took a stand and called them out. Charles S Carpenter EMCM(SS) Ret.

  7. Todd Adams says:

    Jimbo: Exercising free speech does not mean you are absolved
    of any consequences of that speech. Parody, impersonation, and satire are
    acceptable forms of free speech. However, those impugned, disparaged, or suffering damage to their character or reputations are fully entitled to respond. I did not see this episode, but if it occurred as described, it involved depiction of a criminal act in the name of the USCG. The letter also highlights that the
    episode may have been in opposition to Viacom’s stated corporate policy. In addition to that noted in the letter, Vicom’s Social Change Initiative states, “From ​teenage pregnancy and domestic abuse to modern-day slavery
    and gun violence, Viacom has a long legacy of promoting social, political and
    environmental activism, especially among young people.” I doubt very much
    criminal acts of sexual assault fit within their goals. More to the point,
    Viacom’s own Supplier Compliance Policy, describing prohibited practices of
    companies doing business with them, specifically prohibits “Acts of sexual, physical, mental or any other form of harassment, abuse or improper
    behavior in the workplace and in any work-related setting outside the workplace, such as during business trips, business meetings and business-related social events.” It is disingenuous for them to prohibit this activity, yet exploit the USCG (or anyone else) as a vehicle to depict such activity for “comedy” purposes and profit.

  8. SierraI says:

    “it’s allowed”

    As a survivor I’m not mad that CC showed this, I’m mad about how survivors are treated, so how about instead of sending a letter to a television network you check to make sure that the survivors who are reporting incidences of sexual abuse aren’t being harassed and told they have personality disorders. And then after that trauma, realizing that the sociopath/rapist was allowed to lead a normal life and career with very little upheaval.

    Stop marketing and campaigning for this to stop and actually start kicking out the predators .

  9. Tony Hahn says:

    Sierral,

    Thank you for displaying the courage to speak up on sexual assault in the military. As part of the Coast Guard’s ongoing efforts to build and maintain a climate inhospitable to sexual assault and the behaviors that enable it – such as ostracizing, hazing and harassing, we need direct feedback from sexual assault survivors on our prevention policies and response efforts. By speaking up and sharing your experiences and concerns, you are helping make the Coast Guard a healthier and safer organization.

    In the recent Department of Defense report in December 2014 report to the President, retaliation against reporting victims of sexual assault was highlighted as an area that required particular attention by the Armed Forces. Working closely with the sexual assault prevention and response programs of the Pentagon and the other services, the Coast Guard continues to identify ways to improve victim services and implement policies to make those changes happen while also identifying and implementing better policies and processes for holding perpetrators accountable.

    The Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention Council, made up of senior military and civilian leaders from across the service, has already begun introducing changes to our programs including:

    • Establishment of a Special Victims’ Counsel program to represent reporting victims of sexual assault throughout the investigation and military justice process ().

    • Implementation of an expedited transfer process for reporting victims of sexual assault ().

    • Creation of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Crisis Intervention Teams to improve collaboration and response immediately following an unrestricted report of sexual assault ().

    While we are confident these changes will benefit reporting victims of sexual assault and help us hold perpetrators accountable, we know there is more work to be done. Thanks to feedback from brave people such as yourself, we will change our culture and we will drive sexual assault out of the Coast Guard.

    Very respectfully,

    Capt Tony Hahn
    U.S. Coast Guard

    Chief of Public Affairs

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