According to the SAPRO (Sexual Assault Prevent And Response), an annual report into the military revealed that sexual assault rates have increased by a major 50 percent. The report was released as an attempt to persuade victims to come forward and raise awareness.
The Veteran Administration faces a lawsuit for the discrimination of women. The suit made by The Service Women’s Action Network and Vietnam Veteran of America, states that there are not enough benefits for women seeking post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual assault, and that this is highly unacceptable. They claim that over half of the women in the military are subjected to unwanted sexual contact during their service, and it is fact that the VA denies a much higher percentage of military sexual trauma-related PTSD claims than for other mental health disorders.
The trauma from working in the military has now even been assigned to sexual harassment and assault rather than battle – something that is extremely worrying and poses a great threat. Half of the women who came back from Iraq and Afghanistan stated that other members of their team had assaulted them. As a service of respect, these findings degrade the perception towards the military, as indeed they are much higher than expected.
However, research has highlighted that it is not just women who have fallen victim to sexual assault. In 2011 to 2012, 26,000 reports of assault and harassment were made by military personnel, and of those reports 52 percent were men.
Amy Street, a professor of psychiatry in Boston University stated that although the numbers are far too high, they have to be put into context. By this, she refers to the complexity of harassment. For example, harassment can include a large scale of incidents, spanning from hair stroking and groping, all the way to rape. She also points out, that one in five women also report sexual assault in college, exemplifying that it is not just the military who struggle with this type of incident.
Despite this, she voiced her understanding that these problems are heightened when it comes to the military. This is because with the foundation of the armed forces based on helping our country, victims tend to feel betrayed. This leads to less incidents being reported because it will compromise their entire team in terms of cohesion and ultimately the mission at hand.
Another issue is that studies show many women who have made accusations of sexual harassment have actually been threatened or interrogated into dropping their claims, which not only affected them professionally, but also socially. In many cases the accused have actually been men in power, like a commander.
These factors are what makes it difficult to put a stop to sexual harassment of both men and women in the military, because if victims perceive reporting a crime or making a complaint to put them in danger of being targeted further, then ultimately they will stray far away from doing so. Men in the force now believe they can get away with such behaviour, because thus far many have!
If you have been affected by sexual abuse in the work-place, MLS want to hear your story! Share this post to help us raise awareness of the difficulties military personnel are facing on a day-to-day basis.