The issue of sexual assault persists in the ranks of the American armed forces. Thousands of military personnel fall victim to harassment and discrimination every year. In the past decade, complaints of sexual violence in the US military have increased. Previously, the US authorities have already admitted the existence of this problem in the army. However, the solution has not been found, and it is still not possible to achieve positive results. Therefore, the increase in the number of sexual assaults should be discussed, considering its reasons and factors that contribute to its spread. It is also essential to determine preventive measures that can be applied to terminate the violence in the military.
The Pentagon does not mask this problem in the army; the department’s annual reporting indicates an increase in the number of victims. The prevalence rate of sexual assault estimates at 4 to 7% among women and 1 to 2% among men, which is higher compared to same-age civilian cases (Orchowski et al. 421). Sexual violence in the US military is associated with the aspect of hazing. Individual risk factors for sexual violence in the military include alcohol and drug use (Wood and Toppelberg 624). It is also supported by hostility towards women, hypermasculinity, and suicidal behavior.
The current approach to recruit training does not reduce the risk of sexual assault and harassment as it recognizes hazing as a historical tradition. Hazing is characterized by gender stereotypes and abusive attitudes (Wood and Toppelberg 628). Sexual conquest is encouraged in combat training; some rites of passage can turn into situations where soldiers may experience physical and psychological trauma. In some cases of initiation, recruits may interpret them as sexual assault. For instance, the ‘Crossing the Line’ ceremony includes rituals, when penetration of body orifices occurs, being the crucial factor in gaining respect among fellow officers (Wood and Toppelberg 624). Thus, some unit commanders decide not to notice or treat hazing as sexual assault.
Sexual assault is directed not only at women in the military but also at men. For example, according to Wood and Toppelberg, male servants are accused of not acting according to men’s gender roles (628). Moreover, a culture of violence begins at US military academies; in systems where upper-class cadets dominate younger cadets, there is extensive hazing, including sexual assault by senior cadets (Wood and Toppelberg 629). Hence, the problem should be discussed on all levels of training and serving, involving administrative and military institutions.
Sexual violence in the military can be eliminated through particular programs and the ability to report such incidents anonymously, creating a database of known cases. Not all cases of sexual assault in the army are made public. Individual anonymous interviews indicate that military personnel experience higher levels of sexual harassment than they report to commanders (Wood and Toppelberg 627). Furthermore, there are several sexual assault college prevention programs such as bringing in the Bystander (BITB), the Men’s Program, and the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention (SAVI) (Orchowski et al. 423). The results show that these plans’ implementation increased service members’ responsibility for preventing sexual violence. They should be applied not only in colleges but also as a part of soldiers’ instruction.
To sum up, the statistics on sexual assault in the US Army remain at the same level from year to year. Reasons are related to interpersonal relationships and social risk factors. Moreover, sexual assault in the US military directly correlates with the high gender stereotypes and violent hazing. Because of the sexist attitudes prevailing among male military personnel, women are more likely to be targets of sexual violence; nevertheless, it also affects men. Sexual assault in the US military is systematic; however, despite all preventive measures, the issue has not been resolved. It is still unclear to the US authorities whether its protective measures have led to a decrease in the level of sexual violence in the military, or the situation is the opposite.
Orchowski, Lindsay M., et al. “Evaluations of sexual assault prevention programs in military settings: A synthesis of the research literature.” Military Medicine, vol. 183, no. 1, 2018, pp. 421-428.
Wood, Elisabeth Jean, and Nathaniel Toppelberg. “The persistence of sexual assault within the US military.” Journal of Peace Research, vol. 54, no. 5, 2017, pp. 620-633.