Championing Army Values: Addressing Sexual Misconduct Within the Ranks
Defining Harassment and Assault: How Army Values are Compromised
Sexual assault and sexual harassment continue to be a problem within the Army ranks. But with all the training soldiers are now receiving, why is this still a problem? First, we need to understand what harassment is characterized by. Harassment is unwelcome, inappropriate remarks or physical advances both in and outside a professional environment. On the other hand, sexual assault is defined as a threat or an attempt by the use of physical force to abuse a victim who does not or cannot consent.
Sadly, this problem is not unique to the army but is also found across all branches of the military. A few major scandals that have made headlines were the 1991 scandal at Tailhook, where 83 women and seven men were assaulted by aviation officers. Many of the perpetrators of these cases were distinguished or held positions of power. In comparison, the army has made strides to implement early intervention and prevention. I believe change must come to our culture at both the individual and company levels.
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The Evolution of Army Policies: Taking Steps Toward Prevention
Like many problems in the army, these issues have been met with changes to policy. In 2004, the Care for Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force was established. This brought about the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response(SAPR) Office. Also, in 2013, the National Defense Authorization Act increased mandatory training and implemented anonymous reporting. Sexual assault and harassment have widespread and long-lasting effects, which forever change the lives of service members, civilians, families, and coworkers. Sexual crimes stain the public’s view of the military, decrease company morale, and negatively affect the overall readiness of the army.
Factors Driving Sexual Crimes: The Need for Cultural and Individual Change
What influences sexual crimes to occur in the first place? While this is difficult to pinpoint, there are several individual, social, and economic dispositions that foster these behaviors. Individual factors can be drugs and alcohol, lack of empathy, and a sense of entitlement. Childhood and adolescent victimization or perpetration, as well as exposure to sexually explicit media that portray hostility and violence, are also contributing factors. Negative attitudes toward the opposite sex are often fostered by hyper-masculinity and gender stereotypes. In fact, historically, sexual crimes were regarded as the spoils of warfare. Our current culture perpetuates this idea by supporting male superiority and sexual entitlement.
There are also social elements to factor as influences of sexual crimes. This includes negative family environments and histories, such as emotional distance, abuse, and violence, as well as associations with delinquent peers. Community and economic factors can consist of poverty and lack of opportunities. High levels of crime with little police and judicial support, as well as a general tolerance within a weak community, are also contributing factors.
Due to current changes in policy, Soldiers are now more comfortable reporting sexual crimes to their command. According to the results of the 2016 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members (WGRA), there was a decline of 2,100 sexual assaults in the army. This is compared to the same survey taken in 2014. So, how do we end sexual violence in the military?
Sexual violence will not end by merely changing command culture. I believe it must be everyone’s responsibility to make changes to our culture. Parents should display reasoning while resolving conflict and expressing positive views toward emotional health and academic achievement. It is every individual soldier’s duty (legally and morally) to speak up when they see or think something is wrong. And above all, we must teach and demonstrate empathy. Empathy is characterized as a genuine concern for how one’s actions can affect others.
- Department of Defense (2017). Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.
- Turchik, J. A., & Wilson, S. M. (2010). Sexual assault in the U.S. military: A review of the literature and recommendations for the future. Aggression and Violent Behavior.
- Sadler, A. G., Booth, B. M., Cook, B. L., & Doebbeling, B. N. (2003). Factors associated with women’s risk of rape in the military environment. American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
- Morris, E. (2016). The Impact of Hyper-Masculinity on the Army Values. Oxford University Press.