June 2019 Issue Number 227
Is a monthly electronic newsletter which links current events and issues to the daily challenges faced by fire and emergency services managers. Current topics in the areas of leadership development, workplace diversity, change management, and conflict resolution will be discussed.
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Sexual Assault in the Military and Beyond
A 2018 survey among men and women in all branches of the armed forces showed that incidents of unwanted sexual contact were up by 38% compared to the last survey done in 2016. Among women, assaults were up by 50%.
Women currently make up about 20% of the military, but are the targets of 63% of assaults, the survey found, with the youngest and lowest-ranking women most at risk. Assaults increased across all branches, but the Marine Corps, which has proportionally more young, low-ranking troops and far fewer women than the other services, reported by far the highest rates.
A separate report in January showed that the number of sexual assaults at the nation’s service academies had risen by 50% since 2016, suggesting that the problem is just as widespread among the military’s future leaders as it is in the current ranks.
Most victims of sexual assault do not report it. Reasons for this reluctance include the fear of not being believed or being retaliated against as a result of reporting.
The armed forces have dedicated enormous resources to mitigating the problem of sexual assault among their ranks, including education efforts and resources for victims. However, some say that the system of reporting and investigation that follows the chain of command may contribute to the problem.
Women in other nontraditional fields understand this concern. If you are required to report to the person who is perpetrating or enabling the behavior, staying silent is often a more logical course of action.
Some elected officials have pushed to institute a system where an independent prosecutor could be used to handle sexual assault cases in the military. Opponents, including many in Congress, argue that military commanders are in the best position to understand individual cases, and that bringing in an outside prosecutor could tie their hands.
According to recent figures, around 6000 reports of sexual assault in the armed forces were made last year, but only 300 cases were prosecuted. For most reports, any disciplinary action was meted out by commanders at their discretion outside the court system.
In an official statement, the Marine Corps said, "Sexual assault erodes the trust and cohesion within the Marine Corps team, degrades our lethality and readiness, and is incompatible with our core values of honor, courage and commitment." True enough, but now is the time to put action behind words.
Source: The New York Times, May 2, 2019