Sexual Abuse in the Military

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The United States is the land of the free because of the brave, but what people do not know is how brave those people are. The men and women that fight for the freedom of the United States battle different kinds of abuse everyday. Abuse happens in different forms such as verbal, physical, and sexual. The type of abuse this paper will specifically focus on is sexual abuse. According to Ferdinando and the Department of Defense, the number of reported cases of sexual assault for the year 2017 had increased by 10 percent (Ferdinando).

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This number accounts just for active service members who reported their sexual abuse case, and the number is continuing to rise. Because of the rising numbers, abuse in the military needs to be decreased. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the definition of sexual abuse is “unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent” (“Sexual Abuse”).

Sexual Abuse can happen to both males and females, for example David Mairs’ story. David Mair, who is a veteran of the United States Air Force, had something tragically happen to him. In 1962, David was raped while he was stationed in Japan, and kept it a secret for nearly fifty years (Mesok 58). He kept it a secret for so long because he was ashamed and embarrassed that it had happened to him. David’s story is an example that men are also sexually abused in the military. This paper will talk about three different categories of individuals and sexual abuse. The first two categories are men and women. The third category is broader and it is gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals who are sexual abused in the military. Being sexually abuse in the military is not just about gender. Since men and women are both sexually abused, it shows that sexual assault is more about dominance and power, rather than the desire of sex. Elizabeth Mesok also explains that because of the number of male victims, it is supposed to remind us that sexualt assault is not about sexual desires, but rather power (Mesok 58).

The military is a powerful force and a place where people can use their power for not necessarily the good. Officers that are in charge of other individuals can use their power to be manipulative. They can make individuals say or do what they want them to with having little to no discipline. The power of leadership is taken for granite in the military and needs to be addressed. Power of leadership falls into the category of the culture of the military and will be discussed in the solutions to end sexual abuse in the military. The first category of this paper is sexual abuse of men in the United States military. Studies from the Department of Defense show that in 2013, more men were victims of sexual assault than women (Skaine 69). This is because only 15 percent of service members and women, and 85 percent are male. Looking at the bigger picture, 6.8 percent of women said that were sexually assaulted while only 1.2 percent of men said they were sexually assaulted. Translating those percents to people, it is about 12,000 women who said they were sexually assaulted and 14,000 men who said they were sexually assaulted (Skaine 70). As you can see statistically, more men were sexually assault in 2013 because there are overall more men in the military than women. The number for women should not almost be the same as men since there are way less women in the military. Overall, more men are sexually assaulted than women, but when looking at the ratios, the percent is higher for females. Men are less likely to report sexually abuse because they are ashamed or embarrassed (Skaine 74). At the age of 35, Greg Jeloudov decided to join the army, and in May of 2009 he was stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia for his basic training. Greg Jeloudov was from Russia, so he was fairly new to America. Due to his Russian accent, the soldiers on base called him names likes “champagne socialist” and “commie faggot” (Skaine 72).

After only being on base for two weeks, he was gang-raped in the barracks. The men that gang-raped him had told him that they were “showing him who was in charge of the United States” (Skaine 72). When Jeloudov tried to report the incident to his unit commanders, they just told him that it must of been his own fault and that he was the one who caused it (Skaine 72). This is just one of the many cases where men are sexually assaulted in the military. This story along with many other stories should not have happened, and the cases should have been handled seriously. The people in the United States military are protecting this country, but no one is protecting them. This is why the United States military needs to reduce sexual assault in the military. There are several different ways to try and eliminate sexual abuse in the military. The next category is about sexual assault of women. In general, it is estimated that one in five women are raped by the time they turn 21 years old (Sadler 473).

However, in the military for the year 2013, 6.8 percent of women reported they were sexually assaulted. That percent is 12,000 women who were sexually assaulted in the military in 2013 (Skaine 70). Sexual assault of women in the military is explained by inequality (Mesok 57). Many men in the military believe that women do not have a place in the military and that the military is made for men only. Which is why men try to show dominance and power over women, which then leads to sexaully assault. The high numbers of sexual assault of women in the military is also explained by integrating women into the armed forces. The military used to be an “all-male sphere” and now women are transitioning into that sphere (Mesok 58). These are just a few explanations of why sexual assault numbers are higher for females than males. It is just as hard for females to report sexual assault cases as it is for males. There is still the burden of embarrassment and shame for women to report sexual abuse cases as it is for men. When she was just 18 years old, Kate Weber was raped while only being one week into her Air Force deployment in Germany (Skaine 62). Weber said that after she reported the attack, she was stalked and harassed. Weber also said that “he was able to get away with it because the chain of command allowed it” (Skaine 62). This is another problem that needs to be brought to attention. Women are being sexually assault by their own command officers and higher officers.

Command officers are supposed to be leaders and someone who is trustworthy. Women should not have to be afraid to report sexual assault cases just because the repercussions of what their officers might say or do after (Skaine 62). Women are just as afraid as men to report sexual assault cases because of shame and embarrassment. There is another story about a victim, who does not have a name for privacy reasons, but she tried to charge her Lieutenant Colonel Wilkerson for aggravated sexual assault. She went through months of court hearings and investigation. She said that she had felt humiliated and feared running into Wilkersons friends on base. She also said that what scares her is that Wilkerson is supposed to be a leader and show leadership (Skaine 60). There are other cases of this where women are sexually assaulted by the person that is supposed to be an authoritative figure towards them. This is an issue that needs to be resolved. The last category is about sexual assaults on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered service members. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals have served in the military for decades (Skaine 79). However, before the 1980s, if an individual stated they were homosexual or engaged in homosexual acts, they were discharged from the military. This was until the 1980s and 1990s when this policy was terminated. In 1993 the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) became the official United States policy for gay and lesbian individuals in the military (Skaine 79).

DADT became a policy for the United States military to protect gay and lesbian individuals from being discriminated against. DADT was very expensive for the United States military. The policy costed the military about 290 million dollars, and they also had to pay back all the individuals who were discharged before the policy (Skaine 84). There were 19,905 homosexual individuals that were discharged between 1980 and 1994. Each person costed between $22,000 to $43,000. That money adds up quickly. DADT protected many gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals until September 20, 2011 when it was repealed (Skaine 85). This was a step in the right direction for equal rights for LGB individuals. In 2015, President Barack Obama made a statement to claim June as Pride Month. This was pride for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals (LGBT). President Obama stated that “all people deserve to live with dignity and respect, from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation” (Skaine 89). This statement was said to help protect and make more people aware of the LGBT community. President Obama did not want individuals to feel like they had to be ashamed to admit they were part of the LGBT community. This was a step towards non discrimination of LGBT individuals for the future in the military. There are several different approaches that can reduce and eliminate sexual assault in the military.

First there must be a change in the culture of the military. Society viewed the military as being for the physically strong, heterosexual male. Which needed to be changed because the military rejected women and homosexuals. This rejection is what started and continued to allow sexual assault to take place in the military. Since the men were seen as dominant figures, they took advantage of women. When the time came to try and integrate female individuals in the military, there was a gap where males felt the need to take advantage of females. This act was not good for the military culture, and it needed to be changed. Overtime, the culture of the military has changed some in the recent years and is continuing to change and get better about discrimination towards females in the military. Females are being allowed to hold higher positions and ranks in the military. This is a step towards progress to help reduce sexual assault cases in the military. The next approach to reduce and eliminate sexual assault in the military is prevention. Prevention is an important way to help eliminate sexual assault in the military because it needs to be stopped before it even happens. This goes directly to the command officers and chiefs. They are the main problem in many of the cases that were described earlier. Command officers and chiefs are failing to do their job and they need to be better leaders. Higher officers are taking advantage of their power and authority. There are different ways to display leadership and power, rather than sexual dominance. Command officers need to be better chosen and trained before they are able to hold a high position of authority. Lastly, the justice system needs to be changed. The first way to change how cases are handled is to better train military personnel and commands in better ways to handle and prevent sexual assault (Skaine 117). The way that many cases are handled is not fair and just. It is the military’s job to better train individuals that will be dealing with sexual assault cases. Another possible way to produce justice for individuals who are sexually assaulted would be to completely remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command (Skaine 117).

With that being said, there could be a military court system put into place, similar to the civilian court system. The military court system would be for sexual assault cases and other major crimes that happen in the military. This would be better to help solve sexual assault cases because currently, the chain of command is not doing their job properly. The chain of command is not properly trained on how to solve sexual assault cases, which is why it is continuing to happen. These are just a few ways to help make the justice system better for those individuals that are sexually assaulted. Sexual assault leaves many individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Not everyone that gets sexaully assaulted gets PTSD, but those who do suffer tremendously from it. Individuals that suffer from PTSD will try to blame themselves for what happened. They will also try to completely avoid the memory and what happened (Berlatsky 61). Berlatsky says the way to overcome PTSD is to remember the event. When an individual tries to remember the event and play it over and over in their head, they eventually will not be afraid of it anymore (Berlatsky 59). One problem that individuals with PTSD have is that they struggle to get help. On average it generally takes individuals about five years to seek help (Berlatsky 62). In those five years, individuals are suffering through all of the memories of the traumatic incident. Navy Rear Adm. Ann M. Burkhardt, who is the director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office said, “Every sexual assault in the military is a failure to protect the men and women who have entrusted us with their lives” (Ferdinando). This statement is important because it shows that people in higher chain of command are aware that there is a problem of sexual assault in the military. It is not just about the statistics, it is about trying to help create a solution for those individuals who are protecting the country.

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Sexual Abuse in the Military. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved from