Recently a Lt.Col from the Air Force who was in charge of the sexual assault prevention unit was arrested for aggravated sexual assault. Now recently there has been a spike in numbers related to sexual assault cases. For example Democracy Now obtained a report by the Pentagon stating the following “The report estimates there were 26,000 sex crimes committed in 2012, a jump of 37 percent since 2010. Most of the incidents were never reported.” As a veteran who served in our nations finest military it is disheartening that we are seeing such acts occurring within our ranks.
The soldiers share a common thing that they cannot share with anyone outside of their units and barracks. These men and women are sent to countries around the world to do a various amounts of missions from humanitarian aid to combat missions. To be assaulted sexually by your fellow soldier can affect not only the victim but the team as well.
To me the bound that is created is comparable to that of the bonds we have with our family members. As I see a Lt.Col who is in charge of the unit who’s mission is to prevent such crimes is committing the very same crimes he is to deter. It is difficult for women in general to come forward when reporting such acts of aggravated sexual assault because they fear for reprisal or are not taken seriously.
The president in recent days has talked on the issue stating the following “I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training but, ultimately, folks look the other way. If we find out somebody is engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period. It’s not acceptable.” Strong statement from the commander and chief. However, words can only do so much and action must happen.
Military commanders need to establish a trust between their peers and their NCO’s to establish a open line. As a government agency there has to be an example set by the military by showing that they are serious about handling the reports and claims by victims of sexual assaults. In a Times article titled Fear of Reprisal: The Quiet Accomplice in the Military’s Sexual-Assault Epidemic, it demonstrates that exact issue I just addressed. Making the approach easier and more comfortable for the victim.
With the current apprehension of the Air Foce officer in charge of sexual prevention the topic of how we protect our fellow military members has to be on the forefront of the Defense Department and Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel. In the Times report written by Nick Schwellenbach states “Victims are often being further victimized when they say something about the crime that was committed. Reprisal against the victim is the opposite of justice — the opposite of what should happen when a crime is reported.” Breaking that trust and closing that window between leadership and those who they lead major issues can arise with in the team.
We can not allow the military to have a free pass from these allegations or the events surrounding sexual assaults. We need to be as hard on them as we would be on a corporate business who has a high rise in sexual assault. When you are serving in the military you expect to be treated like family. It is understandable that in a perfect world that may be possible because in the military there are clicks that we see.
Just as we in the 0341 Infantry Mortar man squad had our own click we still treated everyone like Marines. We helped each other when one of us was in need of advice or any other type of help. That is what shoule be provided to our female counter-parts. They are the resources in assisting us in our missions. Whether it would be in Motor T or even in logistics they still provide the assistance needed.
We can make them feel like if they report an incident they will be punished, we need to hear them out and act on what we are told. Investigate the details of the claim and the leadership in turn should not punish the one reporting an incident. The military is a agency where it demands a lot from a mental prospective and from a physical point. However, women should be protected just as women in the regular workforce. They should not be afraid to step forward with anything that they went through or they witnessed someone else went through. No man should take advantage of women especially women who men serve next to inside of the military. Action must be taken however it must start with the leadership within the ranks and the NCO’s who are under these leaders. Women should not be afraid to make their reports they should be able to work in an area where they are free from reprisal and where they are taken seriously. Below will be a break down by percentage of the types of reprisal women face in the military.
– 3% experienced professional retaliation only.
– 31% experienced social retaliation only.
– 2% experienced administrative action only.
– 26% experienced a combination of professional retaliation, social retaliation, administrative action, and/or punishments.
– 38% did not experience any retaliation.