Military needs to address sexual assault problem
Would you want a job that included a 20 percent chance you would be sexually assaulted?
Obviously not, yet that is what we are asking of female members of our nation's military, according to a survey released recently by the Pentagon.
On average, one out of five women serving in the military said in the Pentagon survey in 2011 that they were the victims of unwelcome sexual contact from fellow service members since they entered the military. According to a report in USA Today, the highest reported incidence of this unwanted contact was in the Marine Corps at 30 percent. The rate was 24 percent in the Navy and Army and 16 percent in the Air Force.
This isn't a new problem. For years this issue has been brought to the attention of military officials who have promised to address it. The effort has been far from stellar.
The 2011 results for the question on unwelcome sexual contact were significantly higher than the results of a survey in 2008. So it appears the situation is getting worse, not better, although some attribute this to more of a willingness by female service members to report the problem due to outreach by military authorities.
Whatever the reason, we agree with Army Maj. Gen. Gary Patton that “sexual assault is a persistent problem in the military” and that more needs to be done to deal with it. We wonder if more wouldn't have already been done if the sexual assaults were taking place on men in the military rather than women?
Some members of Congress believe military leaders are taking too casual of an attitude toward this issue and perhaps too easily dismissing claims of attacks by the women who are brave enough to report it, even though it may endanger their careers or bring retaliation.
Something certainly seems to be wrong when incidents go up significantly rather than down. Clearly, military leaders are not adequately addressing this serious problem despite years of trying.
That cannot continue – not only because female members of the military should not have to live in fear of sexual assault, but also because women are essential components of our military branches. It is important that they remain in the services and that they join in even greater numbers. That is not going to happen if they know they face an environment where sexual assault is commonplace and apparently accepted.
Military leaders need to be held accountable for correcting this disgraceful problem. The first place to start is by ensuring that those who are guilty of this misconduct are held fully responsible and punished to the fullest extent possible. And they need to make sure those who report the assaults do not face retaliation of any kind.