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Sexual assault in the Army is an enormous problem. The Department of Defense (DoD) defines sexual assault as, “Intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. This term includes a broad category of sexual offenses. It consists of the following specific Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) offenses: rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, nonconsensual sodomy (forced oral or anal sex), or attempts to commit these acts”. Sexual assault not only affects women, but men also. The trauma of an assault can create everlasting effect on an individual, affecting psychological and physical health, military career, and success once they leave the military. This is a problem that needs to be stopped. To do so the army has implemented the SHARP program.
Why does sexual assault occur in the Army? The male-dominated leadership and structure within the military plays a big role in sexual misconduct. More traditional hyper-masculine beliefs include that men are better than women and have been linked to the acceptance of sexual harassment and assault. It is believed that the culture of homophobia in the military also plays a role in the risk of sexual violence.
It is known that alcohol is widely used and often abused in the military. In the fiscal year 2013, about half of all unrestricted reports of sexual assault made within the army involved alcohol. It is also believed a man’s perspective may endorse a man’s feelings of entitlement to regular sex especially when under the influence of alcohol. These behaviors have been linked to rape-related attitudes and behaviors.
The SHARP program, which the army currently uses to inform individuals how to recognize and report sexual harassment and sexual assault. It teaches that bystanders should keep a watchful eye and intervene if they notice something is going to happen. That way it can be prevented before it happens. In 2016 annual rates of sexual assault have decreased by half for active duty women and by two-thirds for military men over the past 10 years.
The trauma of sexual assault or sexual harassment can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, which can lead to further problems like alcohol or drug abuse. Military leaders, and society in general continuously avoid discussing male sexual assault; perhaps because the topic is too unpleasant. Many victims fear reporting a sexual assault out of the fear it will not stay confidential. Some of the victims who did come forward and report sexual assault said they were not believed and suffered retaliation by other members of their unit.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis wrote in a memo for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month “Preventing sexual assault is our moral duty.” “By its nature, sexual assault us one of the most destructive factors in building a mission-focused military.” The more we educate our personnel on the ways to report and how to help stop sexual harassment and sexual assault will increase our ability to reduce the number of assaults. If we continue to educate on the reporting process and empower victims to come forward, the more violators can be punished and taken out of society.
I think until we as a society stop letting these actions be socially acceptable, sexual assaults and sexual harassment will continue to happen. It is important to continue to educate everyone on how to report and intervene to help lower and possibly stop sexual harassment and sexual assault. Us as leaders need to make sure our soldiers know they will be helped and protected if they do need to report an assault.
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