Sexual assault training and the Army seem to go hand in hand, so why does this egregious crime seem to still run rampant through our ranks? The Department of Defense (DoD) defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat, or abuse of power when the victim does not or cannot consent. The prevention of sexual assault is ultimately every soldiers’ responsibility, regardless of rank, grade, or position. While it may seem like sexual assault is on the rise in the Army, the opposite is true. We have seen a sharp decline in incidents and a courageous rise in reporting among service members, however there is still much to be done.
The driving force behind sexual assault in the Army, and military in general, is rampant alcohol abuse. The army is a brotherhood where men and women work side by side to accomplish goals and complete tasks. Mutual trust and respect are at the center of our success, but this trust statistically degrades with the introduction of influences. Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Robins said to the Washington post, in an exclusive article, that “Alcohol abuse strips away the brotherhood and incapacitates the better angles of human nature”. It is no surprise that alcohol affects our judgement in a negative way; incidents of sexual assault are no exception to this daunting fact. In all reports over the last decade “nearly half of women and one fifth of men indicate [alcohol use] prior to the assault”. Being aware of alcohol’s effect on one’s judgement is imperative to greatly reducing sexual assault.
The DoD and Army’s efforts have played a huge role in empowering victims and reducing incidents. Over the last decade sexual assault incidents have “decreased by half for active duty women and by two-thirds for military men” (Ferdinando). The Army greatly encourages reporting for all genders to get victims in touch with proper care and to hold perpetrators accountable for their heinous actions. There are many programs and resources to expedite healing the physical and mental toll that sexual assault has on it’s victims. We also have a well thought out curriculum to educate Soldiers on the meaning of consent and reporting channels. In fiscal year 2017 we see a “9.7 percent increase over… 2016” in reporting (Ferdinando). The clear drop in occurrences and rise in reporting is an encouraging indicator that the Army and DoD are on the right track to abolishing this plague that infests our ranks.
Prevention is better than cure. This statement especially applies to sexual assault, where the degradation of trust and cohesion must be avoided. The many classes and programs that help identify the warning signs of sexual assault and how to stop a situation from escalating are instrumental in preventing more incidents. On Joint Base Lewis-McChord we have the Rape Aggression Defense program which is “specifically designed to protect against sexual assault” (Earl). This program teaches crucial self-defense tactics to women, so they can escape certain situations should the need arise. More implementation of these types of courses and alcohol awareness training is needed to ultimately remove sexual assault as a statistic from our military.
Sexual assault is an evil factor that needs to be removed from our military at all costs. Alcohol abuse and the misinterpretation of consent lead to far too many cases of assault. As an army, we need to take a step back and evaluate our priorities to unite as one against this infestation. We have made many strides towards emerging victorious against sexual assault, but more needs to be done. I believe we are close to eliminating sexual assault, but this will only become a fact if we continue this righteous path.
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