Sexual Harassment in the Armed Forces: Challenges, Causes, and Solutions
Sexual harassment and assault- the sound of those words alone is repulsive. The action is just as sickening as the sound of the title; as horrible as it sounds, it occurs quite often in the Armed Forces. Both genders are equally capable of being victims and perpetrators. Sexual Assault cases are not new to the Army, as cases have been reported repeatedly for many years, under many different circumstances, and in a variety of environments. It is not confined to a specific occupation, age, gender, or name. So, the questions that arise from this information are natural. Mainly, why does sexual assault keep happening, and how is it eradicated? The truth about sexual assault is it can never really end; however, it can be reduced and, with some change- prevented.
The Complex Nature of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces
In posing the question, why does sexual assault occur? For most, the answer seems simple. However, that is far from the truth. A variety of reasons contribute to why it happens. One reason involves a poor Chain of Command- sometimes there are threats made to victims to keep them quiet, and sometimes the Chain of Command will sweep it under the rug and forget about it. Another reason for concern is the nature of it being an individual character problem. These individuals lack the moral ethics to think that the entitlement is there to do as they please, with minimal consequence. Often, such individuals do not think about (or care) about the long-term effects it will have on a person. The way Soldiers are taught and educated on the issue does not have a significant enough impact on the individual Soldier.
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Ineffectiveness of Current Approaches
The current approach to reduction seems like it is having little to no effect. Training over these matters often consists of hours of sitting through presentations with a representative, speaking in a monotone voice, and reading slide after slide of information. This is a repetitive process that occurs month after month without much change. The consequences are apparent in the statistics; however, the grasp as to how harsh of an indiscretion this is does not seem to be there. Simply, more engagement with the troops allows for more personal investment in the individual troop’s behalves.
These cases are increasing. Between the years of 2016 and 2018, the Army saw a 4.6% to 5.8% increase in cases involving sexual assault- despite the monthly briefings administered. The evidence is clear that it is not stopping or reducing the cases being reported. Considering that those are the only reported cases. Who knows how many go unreported? Change must occur somewhere, somehow.
A way to start making change is to make the briefings more engaging. Victims and perpetrators should be given a chance to speak on this issue, as well as how it affected their individual lives. People need to see real pain to fully grasp the severity of the actions and really feel what those people feel. A grasp needs to be made on how the victims react to situations now because of that one moment in life, as well as how making a poor decision affected the perpetrator for the rest of their life, and how both must live from then on. It may not stop sexual assault, but it is a start.
Sexual assault cannot be fully ended, but the way the troops are reached can evolve and attempt to grasp for better. Maybe a reduction can be seen in cases after making an application of change. Change can start in how cases are handled within a unit-preventing, preventing it from primarily being handled in-house, and in the way troops are trained on the subject. There is a stigma of sexual assault in the Army that must be removed from the prestigious name earned by not only this generation of soldiers but all those who came before.
- Childress, S. (2013, May 10). Why the Military Has a Sexual Assault Problem. Retrieved February 7, 2020, from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/why-the-military-has-a-rape-problem/
- Rempfer, K. (2019, August 21). Sexual assault and suicides are on the rise. Retrieved February 7, 2020, from https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/08/21/sexual-assault-numbers-suicides-on-the-rise-clearly-we-have-to-do-something-different-acting-army-secretary-says