Sexual violence in the military is a serious issue. Some may remember a few years ago reports coming out about female soldiers dying of dehydration because when they tried to use the restrooms at night, many were assaulted and thus some stopped drinking water in the late afternoon.
The Washington, D.C. based organization Men Can Stop Rape [MCSR] has been facilitating trainings for and working with, the Sexual Assault Prevention Office [SAPRO]. SAPRO is a part of the Department of Defense [DoD], and was created following a directive to investigate and review DoD sexual assault policy. A task force was assembled, and their recommended policy changes were implemented. The Task Force, in 2005, began training “sexual assault response coordinators [SARCs], chaplains, lawyers, and law enforcement to create a cadre of trained first responders. In addition, the Military Services trained more than 1,000,000 Service members and established sexual assault program offices at all major installations.” The DoD has also set up a website, MyDuty, with resources for victims and links to educational materials related to prevention.
Research conducted in 2008 within the United States Air Force Academy revealed that 98% of women and 99% of men reported that they had received sexual assault prevention and intervention. 81% of women, 90% of NCO’s [non-commissioned officers] and commissioned officers, and 92% of Academy leaders reported that “honest and reasonable” attempts were being made in reducing and eliminating sexual assault.
Clearly some issues that contribute sexual assault are not being discussed, homophobia is of course off limits given the continuing policy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ There is also, of course, the culture of hyper-masculinity and patriarchal values that are rooted in every aspect of military culture. However, with the creation of SAPRO and the collaboration with MCSR great strides are being taken in this previously unchallenged bastion of gender violence.