The United States Army is the strongest force in the world compromised of both male and female soldiers, and strenuously requires all soldiers to be educated about sexual assault annually. With all the information that is provided about sexual assault, why does it still continue to rise in the Army? In fiscal year 2017, the Army continued to see an increase in the number of sexual assaults reported: 4.7 reports of sexual assault per 1,000 Soldiers, an increase from the fiscal year 2016 rate of 4.4 per 1,000 soldiers (Ferrell, Fiscal Year 2017 Sexual Assault Report).
Sexual Assault is an intentional sexual contact without the consent by the use of force, threat, intimidation, or abuse of one’s authority. It is a punishable act under Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Over the years, the Army has been working to bring forward ways of preventing sexual assault with program like Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP). Also, different ways of reporting the assault have been introduced to the soldiers that include restricted and unrestricted reporting; However, the actions taken for these reported cases are not always in favor of the victims. It is not guaranteed that even after the report has been made, the sexual perpetrator receives the appropriate punishment for the conviction.
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In many cases, due to lack of evidence against the accused or failure to identify the offender, the case gets dropped and never makes it to trial. According to the annual report released by Department of Defense, there were 4,779 subject case dispositions were reported to the department in fiscal year 2017 where the offender could not be identified (Ferdinando, 2018).
The aftermath of the sexual assault and disposition of the case results in degrading physical and mental state of the victim. Many times, the victim face military separation due to mental health problems as not being fit enough to be in the Army. This not only makes other possible victim vulnerable but also creates a thought process that making a report could result in retaliation from coworkers, and the chain of command. 58% of women and 60% of men who reported sexual assault face retaliation (“Military Sexual Assault Fact Sheet”), hence, a lot of sexual case goes unreported.
Not only female but also males are victim of sexual assault. However, males are less like to report sexual assault cases. According to the article “What we know about Sexual Assault of Military Men”, males often mistake sexual assault as bullying or hazing. Also, recent DoD report showed 24 percent of men, versus just 9 percent of women characterized the sexual assault incident as hazing, and 39 percent of men characterized the incident as bullying compared to 24 percent of women.
Sexual assault not only affects the victim but also everyone around them. It affects the overall cohesion of the Army family. Hence, it is time that the sexual assault prevention program adopted by the Army come to full effect. Anything based on a strong foundation has a strong and lasting effect. Therefore, starting from the lower level, the junior leader, be it the team or platoon leader must be sincere and commit to help soldiers in need and commit to fight against any sexual assault or harassment incident. Accordingly, leaders at all other level must ensure a safe and respectful work environment. When incidents are reported, the leaders should take appropriate action on time and provide proper counseling to the victim. Leaders must ensure that the victim does get feeling of retaliation either form co-workers or from the chain of command.
Ferrell, M. Y., Ms. (Ed.). (n.d.). Fiscal Year 2017 Sexual Assault Report. Retrieved from https://sapr.mil/public/docs/reports/FY17_Annual/Enclosure_1_Department_of_the_Army.pdf Ferdinando, L. (2018, May 01). DoD Releases Annual Report on Sexual Assault in Military. DoD News. Retrieved May 01, 2018, from https://dod.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1508127/dod-releases-annual-report-on-sexual-assault-in-military/ Military Sexual Assault Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2018, from https://www.protectourdefenders.com/factsheet/ What We Know About Sexual Assault of Military Men. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sexualassault.army.mil/whatweknow_militarymen.aspx
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