"Few northern soldiers raped…True manhood was characterized by sexual restraint not sexual assertion; even mutually agreeable intercourse would have threatened masculine identity. Letting anger toward women break out in unsanctioned violence against women would have been unmanly,” read a passage in Reid Mitchell's book The vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home.This and many other records of the civil war denies that rape was a problem during the civil war. Suggesting that soldiers weren't even having sex. But looking at the records of disease during the civil war shows that there were 109,397 cases of gonorrhea and 73,382 cases of syphilis, and these are only the ones reported among white U.S. troops, the confederate records were destroyed. There, also was at least 450 cases of rape or attempted rape cases in Union military courts. The laws outside the courtroom made it hard for women to report rape cases because of the emphasis on chasity. If a woman were to get consent in the face of a severe beating or at gun point, it would still be considered consensual sex, and the attacker would not be punished, leaving the accuser ostracized.The Atlantic interviewed Kim Murphey about the research she did on military rape. Why does war, in general, tend to breed rape? Because, basically, men can get away with it. Very few men are prosecuted for it during war, and commanders usually do not come down very hard on it. Generally, it’s kind of like the military right now, what they’re going through. Military women are being raped and they often have to report to the person who may have been the rapist, or who may have been friends with the rapist. So it really hasn’t changed. [Ed. Note: In a 2012 survey, 6.1 percent of active duty military women reported they had experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in the past year. Of these, 67 percent did not report the incident.]You mention a lot of difficulties with determining what happened during the Civil War in particular—for example, many of the Confederate records were destroyed. How do you go about extrapolating what may have happened that was not reported?Unfortunately, because we don’t have all the records, we don’t really know. But when I uncovered several hundred cases [of rape], I think that speaks loudly because very few women would have come forward. Very few women come forward during peacetime; it’s even fewer that come forward during wartime, so we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s being reported."If he was holding a gun to her head and she was scared to death, that was still considered that she had given her consent."Also, the thing that most people don’t recognize is that most of the records, like the court-martial records that we do have, were reported during times of occupation. That means that the troops were there, they weren’t in an active battle situation. That’s when women could find someone to go forward to. During times of battle, the chances of them even knowing who they could report to would be almost nil, and even if they did find someone, the chances that the officer in charge would be able to find enough officers to take on a court martial at that time would be next to impossible.In the book, I mention [a rape that occurred during] Sherman’s March, when the army was on the move. The victim did report it. But by the time the case made it to court martial, they were 100 miles away, so she could not testify. That’s what people don’t understand—it was totally against the women to even be able to report it.Can you give an overview of how the rape laws worked at the time?The court martial tried to do by the state laws of the time. During the time, women had to essentially prove they had been raped, and that meant that she had to give the ultimate resistance against the attacker’s force. One thing that was different in the Civil War era was that girls as young as 10 could often be considered as trying to entice men.Women in court settings also were often barraged with questions of how she had resisted his advances. If she consented because he beat her, or if he was holding a gun to her head and she was scared to death, that was still considered that she had given her consent.Do you know what would have been an acceptable answer?As far as resistance? Well, the woman usually had to go out of their way to say how much they had resisted. That’s where the title came from, “I had rather die.” A woman was testifying that she “had rather die” than be raped, and it was during those resistance questions.Explain the distinction between “persuasion” and “force”—it seemed like that was a very nebulous thing.Basically, if a man could persuade a woman in any way to have intercourse, then it was not considered rape. Again, it didn’t matter if he beat her silly in order to “persuade” her, or if he had a weapon and persuaded her that way. In other words, a man could use as much persuasion as he wanted in order to have intercourse and it not be considered rape.There’s a sort of double standard, especially if you think about the idea of what was considered “being a lady” at the time. Now you have to be able to fight off a man—even though normally society thought you should be dainty.Even if it was an upper-class white woman, who was more likely to believed, sometimes judges would dismiss it because they would feel, “Oh, [if she were really a lady] she would have been too ashamed to actually come forward.” So everything was stacked against the woman.That’s the other thing: both the North and the South rarely thought it was rape when it was a black woman. It wasn’t until the Civil War when black women were actually able to come forward and call it rape. Before that time, even in the North, they would make it a lesser charge [for black women], if at all. I do have at least one record where a black woman was able to testify about a sexual assault in New York or someplace like that, but that was very rare. For the most part, black women’s voices went unheard.It seems there was every kind of hurdle: race, class, and whether or not the person had a weapon, or witnesses to corroborate the story. And the more factors you had in your favor, the more likely you’d be successful.And if you had a white male witness, you generally were more likely to be believed.Most of the black men that were found guilty of rape and executed, generally speaking, they were gang rapes, so it was multiple men against a white woman. And with the white men, most of them had other crimes [on their records], and a high percentage of the white men that were executed were foreign born—so there’s an obvious prejudice there, too. They tended to have a history of desertion or other crimes that they were guilty of in the past.Can you talk a little bit about this quote:“It is true that rape is a most detestable crime, and therefore ought severely and impartially to be punished with death; but it must be remembered, that it is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, tho never so innocent.”-- Sir Matthew Hale, The History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736) It seemed, from your book, that all the laws and attitudes at the time revolved around this idea.Yeah, that came from the judge, Matthew Hale, in the 18th century. He was saying that men had it very difficult to prove that they hadn’t raped. That woman was vindictive so, therefore, she would “cry rape.” His words were used in the court martial records and civilian records in the 19th century, and were still used in courtrooms well into the 1970’s.Whether or not those [specific] words are used, do we see this attitude continue today? For sure. There’s no doubt about that. It seems like so many times women still have to prove that they’ve been raped when they shouldn’t. I think we have made some steps forward, but unfortunately women don’t go forward enough because they still feel like they’re going to be lost in the justice system. And I know we’ve had several cases recently where athletes were considered more important than women who had been raped, and that’s essentially the same thing that was going on during the Civil War era. It was more important to have a good soldier, whether or not he had committed rape.So you can see parallels between now and then? Mmhm. And I see it more and more each day, it seems like, where people keep saying, “Oh, we need to say a woman had been forced in order to be raped.” Well, rape is rape, and any kind of rape is forced.