Fight or Flight? It is flight, fight, or freeze in crisis mode. The freeze response is a typical reaction to danger, particularly common among sexual assault survivors. Sexual assault is a form of violence and is fundamentally about power and control. It happens because perpetrators exert power over the survivor and put their desires over the survivor’s agency to consent. In this essay I will analyze why sexual assault occurs, how current military approach reduces the risk of such crimes, and what steps should we take to end sexual assault in our ranks.
According to the University of Michigan’s 2015 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct, people don’t commit sexual assault due to uncontrollable sexual desires or because they don’t have enough sexual opportunities. People commit sexual assault because they are opportunistic criminals who have no regards for other people’s right to consent. Moreover, they feel entitled to other people’s bodies and are toxic to Army readiness. It is fundamental to understand that perpetrators often use alcohol and drugs to facilitate their crimes, but these substances do not cause sexual assault.
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According to Cohen and Boucher (1972): “”The sexual offender may be passive and inhibited or active and assertive, gentle or violent, religious or irreligious, masculine or effeminate.”” In other words, offenders may appear normal by social standards, and are not necessarily mentally ill or “sexual psychopaths”. Sexual assault is often an opportunistic crime, and perpetrators are criminals who seek those opportunities to cause harm.
I strongly believe that the current approach to sexual assault prevention in the Army has yielded positive outcomes over the last decade. The Army approach has been dry, and policy driven, rather than enforcing a cultural change amongst Soldiers, yet it still has helped to reduce number of sexual assaults. Contrary to the popular belief, the number of sexual assaults does not continue to increase in the Army. Dr. Nathan W. Galbreath, deputy director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, states that “last year’s (2017) survey of active duty members found that the estimated past-year prevalence rate of sexual assault decreased to the lowest levels on record since the department began measuring prevalence rates in 2006”. In other words, Soldiers report sexual assault crimes more frequently than ever before, thus artificially increasing the number of sexual assaults in the Army.
In conclusion, the Army does not shy away from the fact that we have a problem with sexual assault in our ranks. In addition to mandatory training on sexual assault prevention, DoD went on to contract RAND National Defense Research Institute to conduct an independent assessment of SHARP incidents’ rates. The evidence above shows that the Army has done a great job policy-wise to prevent sexual assault crimes but has failed to force a cultural change in our ranks. Sexual assault is about power and control, that survivors effectively lose after the assault. Some people chose to exert their power through sexual violence. The Army must enforce a cultural change totally intolerant of any form of sexual violence, and, if necessary, separate Soldiers who fail to adjust to a new standard.
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