Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Response to “Military Sex Assault Claims Rise After Pentagon Launches Campaign Urging Victims to Report”

(See the original article Judith is responding to here)

Although frightening, this headline is really good news, given the military’s long and shameful history of reporting and prosecuting sexual violence. This article speaks to the new initiatives created and how they are making a more open, less shaming culture for victims of sexual violence to report to their ranking officers. This has also created a dramatic increase of the amount of sexual violence reported in the military culture. 

The tragedy is that the abuse and violence has been happening all along. But now, soldiers feel more permission to report the sexual abuse. 

"There is still a misperception that this is a women's issue and women's crime," said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention office. "It's disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report." 

This article also highlights the efforts of the military to connect to and encourage men in the military to report when they are victimized. In 2012, around 14,000 men and 12,000 women reported that they were sexually abused. The study’s report emphasized their belief that low numbers of men are reporting their sexual abuse. The seeming disparity in the actual numbers reported is due to the overwhelming ratio of men to women in the military. 

They believe that the numbers are much higher for the male soldiers. One theory around their unwillingness to report is largely due to military culture. There is a commonly held belief that “it will make people think they are weak and will trigger questions of their sexual orientation. In most cases sexual orientation has nothing to do with the assault and it is an issue of power and abuse,” said Nate Galbreath. 

Rape and sexual violence is about power and control not about gender, sexuality or physical power. It is a very hopeful and positive shift in the US military that they are strong voices speaking out. The hope is now more victims will be able to be heard and get justice though the military court.

-Written by Judith Ierulli, MSW, LCSW

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