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Sexual harassment assault response and prevention (SHARP) has become one of the more prominent topics in United States Military. With movements and causes such as the “Me Too” movement become more mainstream, more focus will be drawn to this topic. With the help of social media and countless activists, victims of sexual assault have found a voice for change that has sparked a demand for cultural changes throughout the military. While this movement has been overly targeted towards celebrities and various Hollywood figures, a spotlight is also been placed on the military in recent years. Scrutiny over not only the number of sexual assaults that occur in the military, but also the processes of handling cases has surfaced. However, there has not been a clear-cut solution to decreasing the number of sexual assaults in the military besides, starting with policing peers and ourselves. While the military has taken great action to rectify this epidemic, more is still needed to repair this often one-sided process.
There are many causes of sexual violence, and it happens to all sexes. One of the greatest misconceptions is that sexual assaults only happen to women. However, that is not the case, men experience sexual violence as well. The majority of reported cases coincidently happen to be women, leaving many unreported assaults that happen to men. One of the root causes of sexual violence as outlined in the article, “A Critique of Causes and Measures of Rape: A Systematic Review of Literature”, is that “rape has taken the form of an indirect agency to cage women within the permissible limits defined by the patriarchy. The culture of rape has become a common instrument for men to hegemonize women and to use them as a vent for their aggression”. Singh makes a valid point or common thought process of many individuals that believe that ideal minds and pent up aggression can lead to unwanted actions. Thus, leading many to believe that there has been a tremendous lack of self-accountability. Everyone needs to be aware of his or her own actions and behaviors, which will ultimately help reduce the amount of sexual assaults throughout the military. If someone violates a perceived social norm to a certain extent or law, then that person should face the consequences of those actions.
Although the military has made great strides with its SHARP program, there still exists a culture of misguided sexual behaviors and misinterpreted sexual advances. The military protects their own is a mantra that holds true to service members. In 2013, the United States Congress attempted to bring clarity to the disorganized issues of reporting and following up with those who were accused of these actions. This action began after the Department of Defense reported an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults that occurred in 2012. This number was up from 19,300 in 2010. However, only 3,374 of those cases were reported in 2012. At the time, the Supreme Court ruled that under the Feres Doctrine, those service members injured while in employment or in service cannot sue, because they were in active duty releasing the military of its responsibility in SHARP related assaults.
Congress passed the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. It changed the fundamental policy of reporting of sexual assaults. “The act strips military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, requires a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case, and criminalizes retaliation against service members who report a sexual assault”. While this Act has changed the reporting vessel, it is not enough until there is a cultural shift and mindsets have changed. Sexual violence will continue, maybe not at such an alarming rate as before, but until the cultural changes are made.
Sexual assaults should not occur, because it is a despicable act that has often gone under-reported and under-addressed due to policies not being clear and precise. Because of this, a stain is placed on the military causing fundamental change to happen in the form of Congressional legislation. SHARP has been effective, but in order to change the culture and reduce the number of sexual assaults that occur, the mindsets of service members must change and we must start policing ourselves and peers. In addition to improving the reporting system, we need to educate our soldiers on the recognition of sexual violence in the workplace. This allows the problem to be addressed before there is an incident to be reported. The major issue that is faced is the act of condoning the social norm of sexual harassment, needs to be recognized, and must be reported.
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