The majority of those facing sexual assault in the military are men…

according to this article from The New York Times.

U.S. Military

Now, I had known that, obviously, men too were the victims of sexual assault in the military. I had also figured as much that it was a vastly underreported crime because men felt ashamed or embarrassed to come forward. That sentiment is applicable to sexually assaulted men in the civilian population; add in the very macho-oriented, “man up” mentality of the military, and it’s easy to see why underreporting happens.

However, what I did not know was that men are reportedly the majority of the sexual abuse victims within the military and mostly by other men, as the article states. That was quite the revelation to me, as I just figured it was mostly a problem facing women.

There is a notion put forward by Anu K. Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, that the main way to break through on this issue – really make an impact on this systematic problem pervasive in the military – is to get across this idea that men are the majority of the victims.

He says, “I think telling the story about male victims is the key to changing the culture of the military. I think it places the onus on the institution when people realize it’s also men who are victims.”

Certainly, I understand what he’s saying, but doesn’t that bother anyone else? I’m all for solving this problem and even though they are the majority of victims, reportedly; it’s somewhat frustrating that the way to solve it is to have men as the face of the victims. In other words, as Bhagwati says, it’s the way to change the culture in the military. The flip side to that is, does the military just not care when it’s female victims? Then again, it seems the way to get at the problem of male-on-male rape is by raising the issue of male-on-female rape in the military. Maybe, then, it’s a win-win all around.

And as one former service members point out, the perception that the admittance of openly serving gays and women into the military is the reason for this problem is categorically incorrect: heterosexual men that are the perpetrators.

All in all, however we get there, sexual assault in the military (and obviously beyond the military, but that’s a separate discussion) needs to be dramatically addressed and curtailed. At the moment, it seems like the military is not taking this issue seriously. I’ve touted this before, but the first step is to get the prosecution out of the military chain of command. Not only does that ensure protection of the victims, but that the perpetrators will face their due punishment.

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