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Issue of Sexual Assault in the Military

Sexual assault in the military has increased from 3,192 attacks in 2011 to 3,374 attacks in 2012 (Sexual Assault in the Military). Even though the military has a “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual assault, there still seems to be an issue with it. Currently sexual assault crimes have been “processed” by the chain of command along with the other criminal charges. The chain of command seems to be bias when it comes to the processing of sexual assault crimes especially to women. For this reason, they should not process sexual assault charges, for they won’t give the victim’s the justice they deserve. They should know to discharge the people that committed the acts instead of the victim’s being discharged. For those that are saying they were sexually assaulted should be protected by the military or civilians in the government while their charges are going on trial.

Since the military as a whole is bias, it stems from them forming a brotherhood and not wanting to have a bad reputation on their chain of command. The military would often ignore sexual assaults that were being reported to them. This is why the chain of command should not be in charge of prosecuting sexual assaults and the government should. With the government in charge of prosecuting sexual assaults, victims will be able to get the justice they deserve. The victims of assault in the military also become targeted within their ranks.

Many feel that keeping the chain of commands authority “in all criminal proceedings is central to maintaining order and discipline” (Sexual Assault in the Military). Center for Deployment Psychology explains how they help train health professionals that provides care to active military personnel and veterans. Women in the military will experience more sexual assault than any civilian women mention CDP. CDP also claims that service members are four times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of rape than of war-related incidents.

DoD had a survey that indicates that sexual assaults in the military increased from 3,192 assaults in 2011 to 3,374 attacks in 2012. However, DoD estimates that 26,000 assaults had actually taken place, which is an increase from last year when it was estimated to be 19,000. This means that most of these assaults go unreported by the military each year. Sexual assaults in the U.S. military academies increased to 50% in the past school year (Brook). Between the year 2017 and 2018 it went up to 747 compared to 507 in the 2015-16 school year (Brook).

During 2004 there was 255,770 case of rape and sexual assault that was reported, following 2013 with 300,170 cases of rape and sexual assault being reported via Department of Defense (Crosbie and Sass, 122). The reports of sexual assault had been going on for about 4 decades in the US media (Crosbie and Sass, 129). Yet, the military is moving very slowly to reform their current state of governance towards sexual assault and justly punishing the perpetrators (Crosbie and Sass, 129). From 1970 to 1990 sexual assault has been ignored by the military commanders (Crosbie and Sass, 129).

There was an annual report done by the DoD that showed the sexual assault in the armed forces. This annual report showed the number of indicated incidents of sexual assault increased by a 6% from the last year (Sexual Assault in the Military). President Obama even said that sexual assault in the military is outrageous and is intolerable (Sexual Assaults in the Military). He even maid a speech that said “those who commit sexual assault are not only committing crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong” (Sexual Assault in the Military). Currently Congress is deciding on several laws that would address the issues of sexual assault in the military (Sexual Assault in the Military).

“The Military Justice Improvement Act, introduced in May 2013, would transfer the authority to pursue sexual assault cases from officers in the alleged perpetrator’s chain of command to independent military prosecutors. Also under consideration is a bill co-sponsored by Senator McCaskill and Senator Susan Collins (R, Maine) that would eliminate commanders’ power to reverse a conviction of sexual assault.” (Sexual Assault in the Military). “Additionally, a proposal by Senator Carl Levin (D, Michigan) would require an automatic review of any commander’s decision not to prosecute sexual assault charges. Levin’s legislation also includes a provision that would deny commanders the power to overturn sexual assault convictions. Levin’s legislation, however, would preserve the chain of command’s power to process and prosecute sexual assault charges” (Sexual in the Military).

Jackie Speier says “clearly, what is being done to address sexual assault in our academies is not only working, it has allowed assault rates to increase a staggering 47 percent.” Sexual harassment has been reported by 50 percent of the female students during the 2017-18 school year (Brook). Men (16 percent) had also reported that they have been sexually assaulted in the last year (Brook). This is very disappointing; the civilian government needs to take action now to help eliminate the rise in sexual assault. Galbreath explains “our measure on this survey aligns with policy and law in this area and helps us understand this repeated unwanted behavior of sexual nature, that is pervasive and severe, meaning it’s repeated.”

Don Christensen a former top prosecutor for the Air Force and president of Protect Our Defenders even said himself that academies in the past decades downplay sexual assaults and are barely consequences for those who commit sexual assaults (Brook). To help prevent sexual assault, Jim Mattis, Defense Secretary, ordered the armed chiefs and academy leadership that would focus on programs that emphasized responsible alcohol consumption, better prevention efforts, a culture of respect and improved reporting of assaults (Brook). The chain of command or the military as a whole should integrate the MeToo movement, so that the victims can have better support systems inside and out of the military. In a Pentagon released report it estimated that troops reported unwanted sexual contact had increased 35 percent from 2010 to 2012 (Brook).

Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio has been reported of having many sexual assaults against 59 of their trainees between 2009 and 2012 and more than 30 instructors were removed from their post (Sexual Assault in the Military).  In the military’s 2012 annual report on sexual assault and the Pentagon reported that 3,191 cases of sexual assault that has been reported during the previous fiscal year. However, there is an estimate that shows a total amount of 19,000 sexual assaults that have been reported for that period (Sexual Assault in the Military). Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta even said so himself that that number of sexual assaults happening in the military were unacceptable (Sexual Assault in the Military).

After Panetta making his claim, he “announced several new measures aimed at protecting victims of sexual assault in the military, including the option for victims to transfer locations, as well as new rules that would make it easier for veterans to file claims over assaults that occurred while they were still in the military” (Sexual Assault in the Military). The 59 alleged victims were not allowed to testify on their own behalf (Sexual Assault in the Military). However, “the Committee did hear testimony from several Air Force officials and service members involved in victim advocacy efforts (Sexual Assaults in the Military).

“In February 2013, Air Force Lieutenant General Craig Franklin pardoned and reinstated Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, who had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault the previous November, stating that the case against Wilkerson had been unconvincing. Franklin’s action enraged many victim advocates and prompted lawmakers to question commanders’ authority to pardon their subordinates” (Sexual Assault in the Military).

The following people were alleged of committing sexual assault; Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski the chief of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program was arrested in Virginia for allegedly committing sexual assault and battery, a manager of the sexual harassment response program at Fort Campbell in Kentucky was fired and arrested because of stalking, a sergeant at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point had been accused of recording up to a twelve female cadets without their consent, and there was an Army sergeant and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention  program coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas that was also arrested based on charges of sexual assault and lobbying prostitutes (Sexual Assault in the Military).

This can lead Congress to intervene and change how the chain of command prosecute sexual assault offenders and require more care for the victims. More care for the victims are needed because some of the victims in military can become targeted by their cadets and superiors, which can make it unsafe and uncomfortable during their career. An issued report found that young women troops were more likely to face a higher risk of becoming sexually assaulted (Brook).

People who are sexually assaulted in the military or in general are more likely to face PTSD, depression, anxiety and social phobias, alcohol or other substance use disorder, suicidal behavior, and self-harm behavior (“Sexual Assault/Sexual”). To help them cope with their sexual assault they would need to maintain a steady sleep schedule, keep crisis hotlines close by in case of an emergency, talk to their friends and family/ service members to express their feelings, stop drinking alcohol to forget about the incidents, workout and do activities to reduce upsetting symptoms, and ask for care from professional if psychological health symptoms continues to have an impact on their daily lives (“Sexual Assault/Sexual”).

The Department of Defense are currently and have been trying to find ways to prevent sexual assault in the military (Kimerling). Their Department of Defense has helped improve the situation by reporting procedures, primary prevention interventions, and surveillance (Kimerling). There are 1 in 100 men and 5 in 100 women who are serving on active duty each year who are sexually assaulted (Kimerling).

Between the years 1990 and 2000, commanders started to acknowledge that sexual assault was indeed a problem, yet they still did nothing to prevent it from continuing to happen (Crosbie and Sass, 129). However, during the last decade the military has realized even more how important it is to stop it and started to look at the basic causes of sexual assault (Crosbie and Sass, 129). The national press made it known that sexual assault in the military is “a long-standing systematic problem within the armed forces” (Crosbie and Sass, 129).

“Although these reforms have not brought about an equally profound reduction in the prevalence of sexual assault, it is clear that this reform process has a momentum of its own. All senior commanders will be measured, in part, on their success in reducing sexual assault. Although many factors lead to these reforms being introduced, the scandal surrounding sexual assault will be central to any more complete explanation. This scandal concentrated public attention on the problem and ensured that, in the immediate future, no senior commander could evade detailed questioning about sexual assault from Congressional committees. Extrapolating from this case, scandal can be understood as a mechanism of democratic governance, one which sees social norms enforced within institutions which have violated them and one that can see the normative realignment of institutions which are out-of-step with the societies in which they are embedded (Crosbie and Sass, 130).”

 Now we come to a point where we speak about retaliation towards men and women who were sexually assaulted in the military. There are 58% of women and 60% of men that have faced retaliation from reporting sexual assaults (Military Sexual). Those that are reported of committing these retaliations happened to be a part of the chain of command (Military Sexual). Victims that report being sexually assaulted have been discharged 7 months after reporting their incident (Military Sexual). They also received worse discharges that resulted in “24% separated under less than fully honorable conditions, compared to 15% of all service members” (Military Sexual)”.

 Due to the retaliation towards the victims “1 in 10 victims dropped out of the justice process, a rate unchanged since 2013 (Military Sexual)”. They didn’t want to face losing their career for being sexually assaulted, which is outlandish to do. The victims shouldn’t have to be scared to lose their jobs for reporting what happened to them. There has to be justice served for those in silence and who have reported it. Leading to those who do not report it because they know that the process would be unfair or nothing will be done at all (Military Sexual). Making “1 in 3 women and over half of men were dissatisfied with their treatment by their chain of command (Military Sexual)”.

 According to the Military Sexual Assault Fact Sheet, the conviction and prosecution rates has dramatically falling from previous years.  They also said that during the FY 2017 only 406 of the reported 5,110 reports of sexual assault were tried by court-martial and that only 166 of the offenders were convicted of a nonconsensual sex offense. The VA hospital provided care to 1,307,781 outpatients that suffered from Military Sexual Trauma in 2015 (Military Sexual). “Approximately 38% of female and 4% of male military personnel and veterans have experienced MST (Military Sexual)”. Most of the victims that have faced sexual assault in the military that were committed by those in the chain of command (Military Sexual). Survivors of these attacks have left the military as of result from the actions in the military (Military Sexual).

 However, some of the survivors who are strong enough and willing to make an unrestricted report, will be able to have their report looked at by law enforcement, meaning that an official investigation can start and they will be able to reach the justice they deserve without bias (Military Sexual Assault). With this happening the DoD is realizing more and more that something needs to be done to decrease sexual assault in the military. The DoD annual report on sexual assault in the military mentions how the decreasing of sexual assault in the military would be hard since it has been going on for this long. They feel as though comprehensive and systematic approach to prevention would be needed because to help reduce sexual assault, especially for those who are between the age of 17 and 24 who are at most risk in the military.

 The DoD plans on issuing a Prevention Plan of Action in the Fiscal Year of 2019 (Department of Defense). This plan would help optimize “Department prevention system with targeted efforts towards this young cadre of military members and others at increased risk for sexual assault perpetration or victimization” (Department of Defense). The Department will also make sure that superiors that are in charge of junior enlisted personal are prepared to help promote a safe and respectful workplace (Department of Defense).

They also plan to a launch the Catch A Serial Offender Program in the same Fiscal Year of 2019 (Department of Defense). This program will allow Service members to make “Restricted Reports to confidentially provide information about the alleged offender and incident” (Department of Defense). The Service members will also be able to change their report from restricted to unrestricted, if there is a match in other reported incidents (Department of Defense). They will be able to also participate in the military justice process (Department of Defense). This would be really great because this would give the victims a voice in the military.

Then the Department will finally identify and correct why the workplace is experiencing an increased risk of sexual assault (Department of Defense). However, the Department still understands that it is going take more than this to actually decrease sexual assault in the military, so in return the Department will work with the leaders to help them find solutions that will allow for consolidated analysis of climate factors and actions they can use to address the problem within the workplace (Department of Defense).

This shows how the military can inadequately prevent sexual assault from continuing to happening (Sexual Assault in the Military). The military seems to have an extreme bias issue towards sexual assault/harassment. An example of bias in the military would be “Major General Michael Harrison, commander of U.S. forces in Japan, was suspended from the military for allegedly failing to report or investigate allegations of sexual assault” (Sexual Assault in the Military). We should all ask the question why? Why do they feel as having a high rank in the military can protect them or why do they think it is not an issue? Also we could ask were these alleged harassers intoxicated or still in their right mind? Many of these soldiers would probably say I was drunk or she was acting very flirtatious. This still does not give them a right to act out of character.

The Chain of Command has seemed to have failed the Service members who were sexually assaulted (Gillibrand). The Service members feel that way because the Chain of Command can be too forgiving and biased (Gillibrand). The DoD should look more into this and see whether the they should still be in control with persecuting sexual assault or does the government need to get involved to make sure that there is a fair trial. People in the military do claim that if the government gets involved then it will weaken the military. However, there are allies of ours that let their government be in charge of handling sexual assault (Gillibrand). Those allies claim that nothing negative happened in their military since they did the switch says Gillibrand.

If the government does prosecute sexual assault in the military versus the Chain of Command doing it the Chain of Command will still be able to prosecute other criminal cases. The Chain of Command will not lose all of their power, they will still have control in the military. However, some people don’t feel that way because they feel like the Chain of Command needs to remain in having control over every case. Yet, they fail to realize that the rate of sexual assault had gone up over the past few years and that something needs to change drastically in order to prevent bias in sexual assault cases. The people who argue against the switch are worried about the wrong thing, when they should be worried about victims receiving justice against being sexually assaulted by one of their cadets or superiors.

Works Cited

  • Brook, Tom Vanden. “Sexual assault, harassment spikes at military academies, strategies fail to stem crisis.” USA TODAY, 31 Jan. 2019, Accessed 2019.
  • Crosbie, Thomas, and Jensen Sass. “Governance by Scandal? Eradicating Sexual Assault in the US Military.” Politics, vol. 37, no. 2, May 2017, pp. 117–133. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0263395716661342.
  • Department of Defense. “Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.” Scribd, 2019, Accessed 2019.
  • Gillibrand, Kirsten, Sen. “Why Taking Sexual Assault Cases Out of the Chain of Command Protects Our Troops.” Defense One, 10 Nov. 2013, Accessed 2019.
  • Kimerling, Rachel. “No Mission Too Difficult: Responding to Military Sexual Assault.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 107, no. 5, May 2017, pp. 642–644. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.303731.
  • “Military Sexual Assault Fact Sheet.” Protect Our Defenders, June 2018, Accessed 2019.
  • “Sexual Assault in the Military: Should civilian investigators handle allegations of sexual assault in the military?” Issues & Controversies,Infobase Learning, 26 Aug. 2013, Accessed 21 Apr. 2019.
  • “Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment in the Military.” Psychological Health Center of Excellence, Accessed 2019.
  • U.S. Army. “What We Know About Sexual Assualt of Military Men.” U.S. Army SHARP, Accessed 2019.


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