As the march towards gender equality in the military moves forward, the issue of sexual assault continues to grow. A recent report on the issue shows, however, that while sexual assault is a major issue facing the military, it is actually military men who are the victims in the majority of cases.
In 2012, 26,000 military personnel reported some instance of unwanted sexual contact; 53 percent of those reports were from men.
The majority of these male reports were instances where a male soldier had been sexually abused by another male. What’s particularly scary is that this number is only from reported cases; who knows how many unreported assaults also took place.
“Men don’t acknowledge being victims of sexual assault,” said Dr. Carol O’Brien, a veteran’s health-care center worker. “Men tend to feel a great deal of shame, embarrassment and fear that others will respond negatively.”
The Department of Defense says it is developing plans to encourage military men to report the crime. The New York Times interviewed dozens of soldiers who stated that they believe they were sexually assaulted, but were afraid to file reports. Soldiers serving in Vietnam were particularly afraid to report abuse due to the homophobic stigma at the time.
Sexual assault in the military - both of men and women – isn’t a problem that will go away on its own. It is up to multiple levels of the military to implement a culture that brings awareness to the crime, and promotes action by anyone who is harmed.