By: Leah Howard
Sexual assault and sexual violence is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as sexual activity when consent is not obtained or given freely. The CDC website also refers to this act as a public health problem and The World Health Organization (WHO) website defines it as a human rights issue. Despite the fact that this is nationally and globally recognized issue, sexual assault in the military is still an issue that has persisted for years. Failing to act against the perpetrators of this form of violence while historically blaming the victim for the crime is not only a violation of human rights, but can cause detrimental long term effects. It is important to note that this issue is greater than just the population of women in the military. Thirty-five percent of women around the world have been raped or physically abused, according to statistics from the World Health Organization, and due to the stigma that is associated with rape and abuse, the prevalence is likely higher than the reported statistic.
Sexual assault in the military is shockingly common. In 1995 the Department of Defense conducted a sexual assault survey and found that over 78% of women and 38% of men who were on active duty in all 4 branches of the military had experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience at least once in the span of a year. Approximately 10-33% of women in the military have reported experiencing either attempted or complete rape while in service, which is higher than the correlating civilian statistics.
When women are sexually assaulted in the military they are more likely to experience “secondary victimization,” a term used to describe the response of community service providers which can cause additional trauma. Examples of this include questioning about the victim’s sexual history or encouraging them not to prosecute their attackers. Seventy percent of minority female veterans reported being discouraged to file a legal report and 65% of survivors reported that legal personnel refused to file a victim’s report. In addition, 70% of victims were told that their incident was not serious enough to pursue a legal case and 83% of victims felt hesitant to seek further treatment after reporting their assault to military personnel.
The issues with sexual assault in the military are not limited to just the mental and physical long-lasting effects, but also with the stigma of the status of certain military discharges. In many cases in which both men and women report sexual assault, the victim is subsequently discharged from the military, while most assailant(s) usually walk free. A Human Rights Watch report found that “very few sexual assault survivors . . . managed to stay in service,” as many superior officers choose to discharge the survivors rather than support them and help them keep their position in the military. Although there are some instances in which survivors are discharged due to injury from the assault or choose to leave on their own, there are still a significant number of men and women who are involuntarily discharged. These types of discharges result in papers that prevent the availability of “health care, disability benefits, education,” and other forms of social support than can come from the civilian population. Employers and service organizations may deny assistance to standard veteran’s benefits such as the ability to apply for education. Veterans with “bad” discharge papers are also more likely to end up homeless or in prison and are two times more likely to commit suicide.
"Many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually. Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting. Just like they eventually did for young Mulan. Moral of story: women in military, bad idea.”
"26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?"
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