There has been a steady increase in the number of recorded cases of sexual assault in the military, which has been an ongoing problem for decades. Although the Department of Defense has instituted new rules and practices to address sexual assault, it is unknown whether these efforts have been successful. The literature will explore why sexual assault rates remain high in the Army, how we are currently training to deal with this issue, and what has to change to finally put an end to sexual violence in the armed forces.
The culture of the military is a major contributing factor to the high rate of sexual assault there. In the military, a pervasive culture of misogyny, sexism, and hierarchical power relations makes it hard for victims to come forward and for offenders to face the consequences for their conduct (Bicksler, et al., 2014). Furthermore, there is rampant discrimination against women and sexual harassment in the workplace, and the military is commonly viewed as a boys club. As a result, abusers are seldom punished, and victims are typically prevented from speaking up for fear of retaliation or social isolation.
The lack of proper training and resources for soldiers to prevent and manage sexual violence is another factor that contributes to the higher rate of sexual assaults in the military. These factors make it more difficult for personnel to intervene when sexual violence occurs. Although the military has implemented several training programs to increase awareness of sexual assault and harassment and to provide support for victims, these programs are not always effective, and there is frequently a lack of resources available to support victims (Dworak-Peck, 2019). Despite these challenges, the military has implemented several training programs. In addition, the focus of these programs is frequently more on punishing the criminals than on offering assistance for the victims, and this can contribute to an atmosphere in which victims are discouraged from coming forward with their stories.
The Department of Defense has created new protocols and training programs to combat sexual assault and harassment. One such initiative is the Sexual assault response and Prevention (SHARP) program, which encourages people to learn about, talk about, and report incidents of sexual harassment and assault (Army Resilience Directorate, 2021). To what extent this initiative has increased the number of reported cases of sexual abuse and harassment in the military is uncertain.
The Department of Defense has introduced the report and support policy in addition to the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program to provide sexual assault victims with a confidential reporting mechanism and resources. Although the policy has made it easier for victims to come forward, they still face significant challenges in doing so (Dworak-Peck, 2019). On top of that, many victims are unwilling to disclose instances for fear of reprisal or a lack of confidence in the military judicial system.
Moreover, there are several initiatives have been implemented by the Department of Defense to reduce sexual assault in the armed forces, but more needs to be done. The first step toward achieving gender parity in the armed forces is to promote more women into positions of authority (Bicksler, et al., 2014). This will aid in the fight against toxic masculinity, which contributes to sexual assault, and the development of a more welcoming society. More can be done to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the military, though, and the service must keep working on regulations and training programs along these lines (Lolita, 2022). Lastly, the military should provide sexual assault survivors with aid and legal representation.
Ultimately, a culture of toxic masculinity and gender inequity contributes to the alarming rise in sexual assaults inside the military. The Department of Defense has introduced new regulations and training programs to lessen the likelihood of sexual abuse and harassment. However, more has to be done to ensure victims are supported and offenders are held to account. Until there is true gender equality in the armed forces and victims are provided with the resources and justice they deserve, sexual assault will not be eradicated.
Army Resilience Directorate. (2021). Study Estimates Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Risk Across Army Installations, Units, and Occupational Specialties. Www.army.mil. https://www.army.mil/article/247665/study_estimates_sexual_assault_and_sexual_harassment_risk_across_army_installations_units_and_occupational_specialties
Lolita, B. (2022, February 17). Reported sexual assaults increase at U.S. military academies after return to in-person learning. PBS NewsHour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/reported-sexual-assaults-increase-at-u-s-military-academies-after-return-to-in-person-learning
Dworak-Peck, S. (2019, August 8). Military Sexual Assault: Why Are Service Members at Risk and What Can Be Done to Prevent It? @MSWatUSC. https://msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/military-sexual-assault-prevalence-prevention/
Bicksler, B., Farris, C., & Ghosh-Dastidar, B. (2014). Sexual assault and sexual harassment in the U.S. military (Vol. 2). A. R. Morral, K. L. Gore, & T. L. Schell (Eds.). Rand Corporation.