How Bad Is Sexual Abuse In The U.S. Military?

Data from the Department of Defense suggests that women in the military are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier than they are to be killed in combat In recent years, the US military has strengthened its position on sexual abuse among service members, and reports that cases are declining

However, in May 2015, US senator Kirsten Gillibrand accused the Pentagon of underreporting sexual assaultsSo, just how widespread is sexual abuse in the military? Well, the Department of Defense 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 includes offenses like rape, forced sodomy, and any unwanted sexual contact A 2014 report indicated that nearly half of assaults towards women and a third of assaults towards men were “penetrative sexual assaults” However, overall, rates have been dropping

In 2014, about 19,000 service members were sexually assaulted, compared to 26,000 in 2012 While rates of assault went down, the number of reported cases roughly doubled, from about 3,000 to 6,000 And only a small percentage of those cases ever went to court Part of the reason that so few service members report sexual abuse is that retaliation from other soldiers or commanding officers is common The Department of Defense noted that roughly 60% of female victims who reported an assault faced some type of retribution

90% of victims were involuntarily discharged after they reported abuse These discharges often forgo the mention of sexual assault entirely, and instead list “personality disorders” as the justification for dismissal So, why is sexual abuse so prevalent in the military? Well, it’s organizational structure poses some conflicts of interest A commanding officer is expected to maintain a group of unified, trustworthy soldiers Any reports of sexual violence within their command reflects badly on them

This increases the chances of commanding officers attempting to resolve sexual assault quietly, or by ignoring it altogether Additionally, the military’s approach to educating service members about sexual assault has been called “very 1950s”, and outdated In 2005, the Department of Defense established the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program to improve the military’s response and transparency Annual reports are also required by law to cover the statistics of military sexual abuse cases Other methods of fighting the problem include a 24/7 hotline for service members to call if their commanding officer ignores their report

Many high-ranking officials have been accused of maintaining a military culture in which rape is underreported and often unpunished One expert noted that, “Right now, the burden of proof is stacked against sexual trauma survivors” Although rates are lower in the military than in the general population, they are still way too high to continue sweeping under the rug Without better education, communication, and acknowledgment, sexual assault will continue to be a massive problem for the US Military I recently met a brave young woman who was sexually assaulted in the military

 She was eventually discharged  He got 30 days restriction and bumped down in rank  To see how she’s overcoming her trauma, be sure to check out this video from my series Rituals And thanks as always for watching be sure to subscribe for new videos every day

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