When someone comes forward with an allegation about sexual misconduct, people often downplay the incident or deny it outright. As Soldiers we like to think that we hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard than this, but that is not always the case. It is not always easy to see why victims of sexual harassment or assault do not come forward, but psychologists have determined a few reasons why. Shame, fear, and a lack of information have been cited as major factors in unreported events.
When someone experiences an incident, many times they blame themselves for the event. This often times leads to feelings of shame and guilt. If you are on the receiving end of a report of this kind, it is important to be as supportive as possible. It is imperative that we as leaders remain empathetic in these situations. We must also admonish anyone who may spread rumors or false information about any alleged incident. We are not in the position to pass judgement on either party involved. Being supportive of each other should be one of the easiest things we do.
Fear of retribution is a genuine concern, especially in the military. Many victims have noted that when the perpetrator is viewed in high regard by the upper echelons of command, they are less likely to report an event. Although it is impossible to manage another person’s perception of your relationship with another, something we can do is foster an environment that shows no one is above the rule of law. Once the soldiers around us believe and experience this, then we are headed in the right direction.
Lack of information plays a huge part in the decision on whether someone comes forward or not. The mandated training on the surface may seem adequate, but there may be other factors. Simply sitting through a SHARP Brief will inform us of who we can report events to and what kind of reports they can receive. However, often times they do not supply you with the names, units, or phone numbers, for these people. There are times where the presenter may offer to talk or give more detailed information if we approach them after the brief. This can be ineffective for many reasons such as: the size of the audience, the accuser may be present, or the presenter may have a nonchalant attitude towards the information. By changing the size of briefs, we could change people’s attitudes towards the SHARP brief. Another course of action is showing a genuine interest in the information and encourage others to do the same.
The challenges facing victims of sexual assault and harassment should not be faced alone. The shame and fear many victims feel should be reserved for the perpetrators of these acts. As leaders we should know the ins and outs of our SHARP program. We should also know who specifically to contact for each type of report, and their contact information. At the very least, we should know who to get in contact with for this information. When we truly foster an environment of trust, respect and accountability, we will overcome the stigmas that many victims face.
Engel, B. (2017, Nov 16). Why don’t victims of sexual harassment come forward sooner? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201711/why-dont-victims-sexual-harassment-come-forward-sooner
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Sexual harassment or assault in the army. (2022, Jun 30).
Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from https://supremestudy.com/sexual-harassment-or-assault-in-the-army/
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