From the first major sexual assault scandal in the main stream media in 1996 at Aberdeen Proving grounds to today sexual assault and harassment has been a problem in the army. With all the efforts put in to the Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program why do the number of sexual assaults continue to raise? In recent years the army has consistently seen a growing number of sexual assaults. In the most recent report the number of assaults went up almost 10% (Gibbons-neff). Are we really seeing more or is it the change in culture in society today? What is our leadership doing or not doing to help the problem out?
Through the SHARP program helping to provided protection to victims of a sexual assault has allowed more people to feel safe about filing a report. Much of the old guard of the military had a very much this is how it is you deal with it and keep your mouth shut environment. During the Aberdeen case it was reviled that people who know about the sexual assaults were blackmailed and had their carriers ruined if they were to speak up about it (Anonymous). Nearly 60% of service members 40% of men and one third of women have said they regretted doing so (Jones). Even with the passing of Army Directive 2014-20 (Prohibition of Retaliation Against Soldiers for Reporting a Criminal Offense) and being able to file a report with a SHARP Professional confidentially. With commanders being the ones in charge of the courts-martial proceedings they tend to know both parties involved and are not a completely biased to make the judgment. This is why 70% of sexual assault cases for courts martial were simply never referred to proceedings by a commanding officer (Keller). This leaves solders with nothing but backlash from the unit after they file a report, no justice, no solutions, just regrets.
With the repeal of the Don’t ask Don’t tell policy that had allowed lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transsexuals serve in the military without being open has now brought a new group of people out that are adding to the number of sexual assaults. With the old policies in place if someone in the LGBQT community that was also a service member was trying to file a complaint they would face prosecution and discharge for the life choices they made. Studies have found that LGBQT are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted while on active duty, with 57.5% of lesbian or bisexual females and 16% of gay or bisexual men (Simkins). Those numbers are twice as high as a non-LGBQT service member. This is a new statistic to the number of sexual assaults as LGBQT numbers were not listed in the sexual assault report until fiscal year 2016.
With today’s society and the “Me Too Movement” we are seeing more people coming out to report the problem and helping to build an environment that say this is not okay. The social trend is now moving in to the military and showing where the problem is really. The culture of the military. According to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis “Self-discipline, alert noncommissioned officers and attuned chains of command are essential in setting standards to strengthen military readiness to fight well and increase the ability to recruit and retain the best people. While casualties on the battlefield are understood to be consistent with our military duties, I accept no casualties due to sexual assault within our ranks,” he said. “Military leaders are to be zealous in carrying out in loco parentis responsibilities and ridding our ranks of such illegal, abhorrent behavior” (DOD). Changing of this culture starts at the very top but also at the bottom with the squad leaders and team leaders (Vergun). As the movement grew more and more information came to light to show the problem at all levels. Young officers who were coming out of West Point being caught up in sexual harassment rings (Cohen). These are the current and future leaders of the military and it is obvious that they are not ready to change the culture of sexual assaults in the military.
As you can see the growing changes in our society have found the way in to the military life as well. The more we open our ranks to diversity with people of different sexual orientations the more chances of incidents happening. Even with the failure of leadership to act to help protect soldiers when they file a report the number of reports each year is still going up. We have now seen in all industries in the country this year people standing up and saying this is not right and we need a change. Now the military is seeing that same movement, the entire culture of the army on all fronts is going to have to change to fix this problem. While it takes time to adjust to these changes. It is easy to see why the Army is seeing a rise in the sexual assaults even with all the efforts put in to the SHARP programs.
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