Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Military
Yearly, thousands of young men and women are recruited into the army to serve. However, many of them experience sexual harassment or assault at some point during their tenure there. While there are many cases of reported sexual harassment claims, the numbers are much hair as many cases go unreported or lost in the chain of command. With that said, some measures such as SHARP have been put into place to combat this problem in the military.
SHARP is a method of training that is employed in the military during the Initial Military Training. Individuals in this stage undergo classroom and instruction sessions that are 90 minutes each. Additionally, SHARP training is conducted at specialty schools in the military to ensure that sexual harassment, assault, and prevention are addressed and dealt with early in the soldiers’ training (Fromm 21). Sadly, despite this training and information, sexual harassment still seems to be a rising problem in the military. This essay aims to explain this trend and to provide possible ways of mitigating sexual harassment and assault.
The main reason the culture of sexual harassment is still prevalent in the military is its sexual objectification culture and the power dynamics at play there. The army employs a strict sense of hierarchy and authority, which places the soldiers at the bottom of that rank subject to assault from their superiors. When power is combined with a lack of moral guidance, then sexual harassment becomes inevitable. While it is true that there are numerous consensual relationships between superiors and their subordinates, when a low-ranking soldier rejects such advances, they end up getting sexually harassed or assaulted (Fromm 23). The other cause is the objectification of younger or “weaker” people in the military that acts as a precursor to either psychological or physical violence. (Fromm 24)
The current approach to mitigating and preventing sexual assault is the SHARP program that has been in existence since 2006. However, the program just focuses on letting military personnel know that sexual violence exists and how they can mitigate or report it once it occurs. It does not change the culture of objectification and power plays that cause violence in the first place. By failing to change the way people perceive this culture, it does not deal with the root cause of sexual harassment and assault in the army (Abueg 36). The only way to effectively curb sexual harassment is by effectively decreasing the harmful power dynamics and gender equalities in the military. By doing this, the military will create a healthier environment that protects all women, and to some extent, men from practices that harm them and constantly belittle them. (Abueg 37)
In conclusion, as seen above, the solution to reducing sexual harassment and assault in the military does not lie within the amount of training and reporting; it lies within the culture that demeans soldiers in a lower position. The only way to curb this is by slowly changing the culture that portrays how low-ranking officials are seen. By ensuring equality in the army, the program can ensure that sexual harassment and assault cases are effectively reduced.
Abueg, Justin-Ryan. The influence of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program on norms and society in the United States Army. Diss. 2016.
Fromm, Peter D. “SHARP Realities: Perspectives in Tackling the Army’s Number One Priority.” Military Review 95.2 (2015): 22.
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