Military Sexual Assault and Harrassment

In the military today, women still struggle with many issues that civilians would see as outdated. Sexual assault in the military is an extremely prevalent problem; not only does this problem affect women but men as well. While this blog will focus on the issue of women’s sexual assault in the military, it is important to make note that this issue reaches across gender lines, and the only way it can be solved is through mutual support by both men and women. One article states, “more men than women were sexually assaulted in the military in 2013”, but upon analysis, this fact can be extremely deceiving. 12,000 women say they were assaulted, while 14,000 men say they were assaulted, but in the military women only make up approximately 14.5% of the forces. 12,000 women when they only represent 14.5% is an extremely large number when the other 85.5% of the forces experienced 14,000 sexual assaults. Some officials say that this issue is “not solely a women’s issue”, and with that, I agree. However, I disagree in their opinion that this issue is not focused mainly on the females. I believe that it is; even in my time ROTC, I have experienced forms of harassment and belittlement based on my gender (outside of the Penn State program, fortunately).

These numbers are highly underreported, just as my experiences went unsaid as well. Fortunately, for me there was no outright harassment or assault, but some women experience traumatic experiences such as rape and fail to report it to their superiors. Why? The failure to report comes from not only the masculine culture of the military, but sometimes because the assault transgressed with the superior to whom they would be reporting! The military is desperately trying, and in some cases succeeding, in curtailing the number of sexual assaults, but the training program can still be misconstrued to slightly blame the victim or focus on victim prevention of women changing their own habits.

In the Army, every soldier goes through the SHARP training program to help prevent sexual assault. SHARP stands for Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program. In my personal experience with this program, scenarios are presented among which both males and females are the victims, but the scenarios are those in which the female is typically the victim. For example, they are given scenarios at the bar where an individual is trying to pick someone up and take them home; a superior is trying to coax an individual to treat them to a sexual favor in order to be promoted, etc. Soldiers are taught to intervene, act, and motivate through this program. It seems ideal as the program is presented to the body of soldiers as a whole, but in some occasions this does not always occur. The program may be presented in one instance to the soldiers as a group, but then in other occasions the women are pulled aside separately and given their own “preventative program”. This is extremely concerning to me, as it singles out the women as the potential victims and it encourages them to stay in groups or watch what they were or say or drink… These typical strategies we hear about are what perpetuate victim blaming in the first place! Measures like these are ones that scare women away from reporting, as if the masculine culture was not intimidating enough for some of them already.

Now, I would never be one to say that the Department of Justice is not trying to prevent sexual assault. It is clear that they are trying to do their best to prevent sexual assault and harassment for both males and females in the military, but due to past stigmas and strategies, some can still be seen as perpetuating females to be the main victim. They can still make the women feel as though they should watch their every move when trying to simply perform their duty. Women should not feel the need to watch their backs while on the job; the job should be the only focus. It is a shame that in today’s day and age, women must still worry about being assaulted within the ranks. The ranks are a brotherhood and sisterhood, and no military member should ever be a victim.

http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/index.cfm

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/01/politics/military-sex-assault/

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/05/01/3433055/dod-men-mst/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/03/military-sex-assaults_n_6265492.html

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/4/pentagon-sexual-assault-claims-drops-among-militar/?page=all

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Women: The New Face of a Ranger

Recently, the Army announced its plan to open the prestigious Ranger School to females. This was a previously all-male unit, just as other combat roles have been until this past year. By 2016, the military is forcing all branches to open up combat roles to women willing to serve. The issue of women in combat has long been debated, especially with the news of combat roles officially opening to incoming soldiers. Soldiers are very outspoken on this topic. Many veterans harshly condemn the possibility, but others view the change as positive.

The debate stems from those who believe the Army is using this as a simple social experiment to those who agree that if women can fill the shoes of a combat role, they should be there. Personally, I believe it is essential for women to fulfill the same duties of their male counterparts if they want to fill the same roles. If they can fill the roles, put them in those roles, but at absolutely no counts should the military lower the standards simply to open new roles to females. These women must prove their worth if they want to do the duty. The only way the military can stay strong and successful is with the same tenacious fight and effort; if women in combat (especially women in Ranger School), are allowed to be weaker than the men, they are doing nothing but hurting the army.

This being said, Army Secretary John McHugh has approved women to enter the next Ranger School that will begin on April 20th, 2015. He also stated that in order to receive the tab of a ranger, the women must meet the same standards and requirements of the men. Previously, the army opened up Sapper School to women without any major disruptions to the program. While the Sapper School recruits passed without issue, the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course has seen nothing but failure upon opening its gates to women; there is yet to be a female marine pass the course.

Ranger School includes vigorous and demanding training; in the past, this was an extreme concern when it came to opening the doors to female recruits. Over the two-month training period, soldiers get little to no sleep frequently, and they are expected to complete long foot marches with heavy amounts of combat gear on their person. The soldiers are also put through a rigorous physical fitness test, which has seen many failures even among the men. There are three phases in total to the school, and in order to complete Ranger School, individuals must pass each phase.

In order for these women to even be considered for Ranger School, they need to pass the pre-Ranger course located at Fort Benning, Georgia. As of one week ago, five women passed the course and will attend Ranger School. The five women who passed began with a class of 26 women. The 53 males who passed originally had a class of 96. There will be three other pre-Ranger courses before the school takes place, and women will have the opportunity to test for Ranger School at these as well.

Even with the opening of Ranger School to women, those who pass will not be able to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment; that will still remain closed to women. The women who pass will have extra opportunities and duties within infantry and combat units instead. This is still an important role for women; they have previously seen front line deployments through attachments, but never as a full bodied member of the unit. This opportunity allows the women to become a sister in the brotherhood of frontline combat; this small change can hold great power in the way women are viewed in the military.

Unfortunately, the military still worries about soldiers handling interactions between the sections on front lines, and if there are any incidences throughout Ranger School that support this possible issue, women’s roles will have to be reconsidered once again. Sexual assault is never taken lightly, nor is fraternization during deployment. The new recruits will be closely watched as they enter these roles. There is no questioning the differences of the sexes, but if the two can work cohesively as a unit with one purpose, standard, and goal there should be no problem integrating women into these traditionally male roles.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/15/combat-women-army-ranger-school/21814747/

http://www.armytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2014/12/05/women-ranger-school-students/19950227/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/01/16/the-army-approved-women-going-to-ranger-school-and-reaction-is-mixed/

http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/02/05/first-five-women-green-lighted-for-ranger-school.html

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