t’s not a new topic. It’s not a new controversy. This unjust affront to one’s very own personhood has been researched and examined by the media, argued on the floor of Congress, and overwhelmingly scrutinized by well-respected Senators and high ranking political figures such as Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Yet, sexual assault in the military has been unfathomably increasing with each fiscal year.
In March 2013, the Department of Defense’s report titled the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Strategy stating in fiscal year 2012, a total of 3,374 reports of sexual assault involving servicemembers as victims or subjects, an increase from the 3,192 reports received in fiscal 2011. These reports involved offenses ranging from abusive sexual contact to rape.
In January 2012, the Department revised and reissued DoD Directive 6495.01, which included a requirement that military services align their prevention strategies with the DoD Sexual Assault Prevention Strategy.
The central tenet of this strategy is the Spectrum of Prevention, which describes six levels of influence and intervention, ranging from individuals to organization-wide policy.
So, why have the numerous training efforts, mandatory sexual assault classes for servicemembers, the prevention programs for sexual assault not made an effective impact in our military community?
It is suggested that the chain of command are not implementing policy, but are dealing with the accused and the accuser assumable within their command.
It may be the mentality of our servicemembers not wanting to get involved when seeing such acts take place and look the other way.
Essentially, more needs to be done. Having accountability among military leadership to pursue any sexual assault with respect and sincerity should be one of the focuses of a command; having leadership that influence characteristics of honor and loyalty; integrity and accountability.
Military leaders should be willing to lead from the front by acknowledging the issue and enforcing effective policy that would benefit the victim and promote rightful judicial process for the accuser. Having hands off mentality of sexual assault accusations to uphold the “image” of military culture and personnel is the opposite of what servicemembers stand for and sacrifice their lives for.
Military leaders can get involved by enforcing a zero-tolerance environment. Examine the Sexual Assault Prevention policies and strategies provided by DoD, and implement a plan for the respective unit. Starting with core unit leadership will perhaps initiate a generational change in mentality and culture standard of the military.
Servicemembers should be able to trust their fellow Sailor, Soldier, Airman, and Marine and not have to look upon them as the enemy, but as one who checks their right or left.
Sexual assault on any servicemember should never be causally mentioned as a disappointment of events; in essence it is a dishonorable, unmoral act that is dispiriting.
Servicemembers are entitled to feel safe and when they are violated by another servicemember or other persons, they should be given the treatment and compensation they need as a survivor without the discussion of “the policy does not cover your case.”
Let’s ensure the policy represents all victims and their needs.
(Editor’s note: Leslie Gilliams is a Marine veteran and currently a University of Southern California graduate student in Social Work.)