Keeping Our Defenders Safe (Sexual Harassment Within The U.S. Military)

 “The Invisible War” Documentary Film
(If you don’t have the film you can watch it on YouTube in “parts”)

The troops protecting our country are also sexually assaulting others within the same group which is very contradicting.

This may be hard to believe, but sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape are very common in the U.S. military. In May, the Pentagon released an anonymous sexual assault survey which concluded that 26,000 troops were sexually assaulted/harassed in 2012. This is a tremendous increase in assaults when compared to the 19,000 who reported last year. Although women only make up 15% of the active duty force, they make up 47% of the sexual assaulted victims. “The annual report shows that of assaults on women, 67% happened on base, 19% in a war zone and 20% on a ship or a field exercise. For male-on-male assaults, 73%happened on base and 26% in a combat zone” (Washington Times).

The perpetrators of the sexual assaults are usually people in charge/superiors. You can see how this puts service members in an awkward position. Having a superior as the offender contradicts the entire situation. The majority of sexual assault cases are not reported. Therefore, the committer gets off with no punishment, while the victim is emotionally and mentally scarred for life. Sexual assaults are not reported for numerous, military, cultural reasons:

1. Not wanting to look weak: The military puts a lot of emphasis on strength and bravery. Therefore, anything feminine is considered weak. A rule that is rooted into the minds of troops is to never admit to having any kind of weakness (for example PTSD). Having weaknesses show that one is incapable of being a military officer. Likewise, admitting to being a victim of sexual assault falls under the same rules. Reporting such incidents is looked down upon.

2. Having to follow the rules:  In the military troops have to follow very strict rules for example, when to wake up, when to eat, how to walk, and etc. Everything they do is dictated by a set of rules which they are trained to obey. Consequently, if a troop’s superior tells them to keep quiet about being sexually assaulted it’s hard for the troop to defy their wishes.

3. No privacy: Unfortunately, everyone will know if a troop reports an assault because military schedules are strict and exact. With these types of schedules it’s very apparent if someone is missing. Also, everyone  in the military is aware of everyone else’s business, so reporting an assault can cause others to give the victim the cold shoulder. Once a troop is in this awkward situation there is no way out which makes the military environment very uncomfortable for them.

4. Re-victimized: Many times troops finally get the courage to report their assault but, instead of helping them, the system just turns the situation around by making the victim at fault. “Making matters worse, each branch of the armed forces has its own judicial system, and it’s currently legal for a base commander to overturn a lawful conviction” (Act Courage).

HOW TO STOP THE ASSAULTS!:

1. Giving victims a voice by directing them to organizations such as “Protecting Our Defenders”.(http://www.protectourdefenders.com/)

2. Bring troops’ attention to “Help Hotlines”.
(http://www.protectourdefenders.com/crisis-hotlines/)

3. Making sure prospective troops are aware of the dangers that can occur in the military and are prepared on how to deal with it.

4. Singing the petition to get your representatives of Congress to support the  “STOP ACT”
(http://act.couragecampaign.org/sign/STOPAct/)

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”
-Shirley Chisholm

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