Cases of sexual harassment and assault exist in today’s Army despite serious efforts to end them. All Soldiers attend in-person briefs and take online classes about the Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Program (SHARP). In spite of this, cases continue to appear throughout the Army and have increased over the last few years. It is a serious problem, and one that proves difficult to solve.
In fiscal year (FY) 2018, there were 6,053 formal reports of Sexual Assault with ~14,000 unreported cases that same year. That is an increase of 1500 cases over two years since FY 16 and an approximate increase of 5,500 possible unreported incidents. Those numbers translate to a ~35% increase across the board for sexual assault alone. This data does not include sexual harassment cases.
One logic gap that occurs within Army Leadership is the assumption that this is a problem exclusive to the United States Army. The same types of assaults and harassment occur just as often within civilian organizations (1:5 women, 1:71 men). In attempting to solve the issue internally, Army Leaders are effectively isolating soldiers from the rest of the relevant data. The problem would be better handled if civilian and Military organizations worked together on a large-scale basis. Soldiers live in a very controlled environment. The use of outside observers on people within that controlled environment could yield significant amounts of helpful data. There is a habit of overall short-sightedness and a willingness to adopt half-measures within the Army. Mandating more classes and training cannot be the end-all be-all solution. If that were the case, SHARP would cease to exist. All this does is push the issue further and further down the road. Leaders at all levels have to engage soldiers on a personal level if there is any hope of succeeding. Soldiers are still human regardless of any training, and assuming this issue is somehow unique to them is a serious mistake. One size fits all always leaves someone out, and that will ultimately lead to further problems.
From a scientific standpoint, two main factors considered root causes of sexual violence are natural psychological deficiencies and learned behavior from family. Data suggests that 20% of sexually abused children ultimately will grow up to commit an offense of their own. Another example of this is in statistics for people with emotional/physically abusive childhoods, which also links to a greater likelihood of committing acts of sexual violence. It appears that learned behavior at that early age can have adverse effects on people as they grow and develop, causing psychological damage. These people are in addition to the ones born with these psychological deficiencies. One option that isn’t stated in any sources cited for this document is that some people may just truly be evil. Throughout history, humanity has proven itself capable of being violent and cruel. This trend has continued throughout history; from the enslavement of Ancient Egypt, the Mongol conquest of Asia, the Spanish Inquisition, and all the way to modern times with groups such as ISIS and Khmer Rouge. If the pattern holds, no amount of training could ever have an impact on those who fall into the class of morally and mentally flawed or whose beliefs are a direct antithesis of the Army Values.
The true causes of sexual violence and harassment may never be truly known, and unfortunately may never be stopped completely. Regardless, all people and organizations must do their due diligence in their efforts to mitigate the issue and aid all survivors. Humans are imperfect beings, and as long as that holds true, sexual assaults and harassment will continue despite the best efforts of good people.
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