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Sexual assault in the military

Today, military women are at greater risk of being sexually assaulted than killed by enemy fire.
According to the Department of Defense, rape in the military is a major problem facing an estimated 8,000 women in uniform today. The incidences are high while the reports are low, and underlying all the trauma and deceit is one problem: silence.
Why are they silent? Department of Defense data on sexual assault from the 2011 fiscal year shows that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults in the military go unreported.
The mission of military training is to build an unquestioning obedience to authority that will result in an efficient warrior mentality within the ranks, yet the result too often perpetuates violence and dehumanization. The military is idealized as a brotherhood dependent on self-sacrifice, strength and obedience to authority. Unfortunately, due to the epidemic of sexual assault, this brotherhood betrays too many women in uniform.
According to a recent report in the National Journal, many victims are blamed or diagnosed with a personality disorder in order to explain their distressed state, which results from the assault. This diagnosis halts victims’ careers by labeling them as vulnerable and weak.
The 2012 documentary, The Invisible War, reports that more than half of women who are raped do not report because the person to whom they would report is the rapist or a friend of the rapist. Because of this, the documentary suggests that in the past, reports were not treated seriously enough, and victims were not granted adequate confidentiality.
Even though the military has made some improvements, many victims still end up distrusting the system they are taught to trust the most. Department of Defense data suggests that the response to reports needs to be significantly more effective.
In the past, unit commanders, who are not trained in dealing with legal matters, had the authority to dispose of offenses that their subordinates reported. Because commanders’ promotions are dependent on the conduct and performance of the troops they supervise, they had an incentive to make sure that allegations and convictions within their troops were few. Less than five percent of reported offenders are convicted, and those that aren’t are not included on the national registry for sex offenders. They can then easily claim civilian victims as well.
Last year, fewer commanders brought up charges, and fewer soldiers charged with rape or sexual assault were convicted than in 2010. After Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta watched The Invisible War in April of this year, the government took away commanders’ discretion to charge alleged offenders and gave the responsibility to a special court martial, for which at least a colonel or Navy captain is in charge. This is a definite improvement, but only time will tell how effective the change will be.
According to the documentary, women who are raped in the military return to society with a higher chance of suffering from PTSD than men who served in combat. They experience just as much as men in combat, but the added trauma of sexual assault causes the likelihood of suffering from the disorder to spike.
These women have trouble adjusting to society; they may have trouble holding a job, struggle in their personal relationships, become more dependent on social welfare or even find themselves homeless.
In the past few years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has increased aid to female victims of PTSD significantly; however, they still have much more research to do on women’s health issues that stem from deployment.
This is not just a problem within the military but a problem that affects the economy, social welfare, jobs and the general well-being of American society. This is a problem too many people face daily, even though most say nothing about it. Take notice and give a voice to those military women who are silent.

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