Sexual violence within the United States Army undermines its credibility for potential recruits and still affects thousands of victims, despite measures taken to eliminate it. According to Kime (2019), the number of sexual assaults in 2016-2018 increased by almost 40 percent, and in 2018 alone affected 20,500 employees. An important fact is that researchers obtained this number of victims through surveys, and the number of official complaints was three times lower. Among the victims, there are both women and men, although the latter percentage is much less. The Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP) has not been effective enough in performing its tasks. This paper explores why, despite SHARP training and actions, the number of incidents continues to grow.
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The problem of sexual harassment and the difficulties of solving it in the army environment have several roots. Considering that the overwhelming number of victims are women with less representation in the military, gender stereotypes and the legacy of patriarchal society are essential prerequisites. Patriarchate, especially in the harsh conditions of the army, imposes the image of a dominant, aggressive man with hyper-masculinity, and such an image affects the behavior of male officers (“Military sexual assault,” 2019). Another reason is the culture established in the ranks of the army. Strict hierarchy, dependence on leaders, the importance of cohesion and trust in the unit, living conditions are influential factors. The ranking and features of the system cause difficulties for reporting an incident, and the cohesion of officers can provoke condemnation of colleagues and create a traitor image for the victim. The reasons for the problem of sexual violence are very influential and hinder its solution.
Measures designed to solve the problem had failed to address the sources of the issue. Examples of victims’ stories provide evidence of the influence of these initial factors. For instance, Kayla Kight, who suffered an assault in 2013, could not achieve justice, as the leaders did not pay enough attention to her message (Torres, 2020). Moreover, the consequences – the deterioration of performance and the woman’s constant transfers negatively affected her career. Officers trained by the SHARP claim that dry PowerPoint presentations do not change the culture contributing to violence. The materials focus on what not to do and not on how to act. Moreover, they consider mainly situations where the victim and offender of the same rank, miss cases with male victims, and have other similar shortcomings (Myers, 2020). Thus, SHARP does not address several important factors and does not solve the problem.
The ineffectiveness of existing measures, the increase in incidents of sexual assault, and the seriousness of their consequences demonstrate the need for new measures. Since the main problems are inadequate training, army culture, difficulties in reporting, and leaders’ indifference, the military leadership should focus on eliminating them. The introduction of the new laws may improve culture and reporting, which would remove obstacles to justice. In training, researchers recommend shifting focus to psychoeducation and changing cultural attitudes (“Military sexual assault,” 2019). Finally, leaders have a significant influence and set a framework for the conduct. Holding them accountable for cases in their units can make them respond more effectively.
Thus, statistics show an increase in cases of sexual harassment/assault in the army. They continue to occur despite the measures taken to solve the problem, particularly the conduct of training within SHARP. The sources of the problem are in the culture accepted in the army – it affects officers’ behavior, prevents the investigation of incidents, and the pursuit of justice. Existing training is too superficial and does not resonate with the current status quo in the way necessary to improve it. To solve the problem, management should change the approach to training, consider the possibility of adopting new laws and hold leaders accountable. The latter measure may be most effective since leaders and their reactions often establish the framework for acceptable behavior. Victims of violence are not guilty of what happens to them and should receive the necessary support.
Kime, P. (2019). Despite efforts, sexual assaults up nearly 40% in US military. Military.com. Web.
Military sexual assault: Why are service members at risk and what can be done to prevent it? (2019). The University of Southern California. Web.
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Myers, M. (2020). A culture that fosters sexual assaults and sexual harassment persists despite prevention efforts, a new Pentagon study shows. Military Times. Web.
Torres, E. (2020). Military sexual assault victims say the system is broken. ABC News. Web.