Military Sexual Assault Prevention and Response: The Bystander Intervention Training Approach

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Money being spent by the US Military on Sexual Assault Prevention has increased over the years. While it was not until 2005 that Congress mandated the Department of Defense form a task force to investigate the issue and develop a program of prevention and tracking by 2008 it was estimated that the task force had spent $15 million, but had not accomplished anything of substance. In 2009 it was reported that sexual assaults in the military were up 11 percent (Ellison, 2011). Recently the focus has shifted to Bystander Intervention Training as a possible way to reduce the overall incidence of Sexual Assault in the military. This article looks at the efforts of sexual assault prevention and response programs and how they have shaped the attitude of military members.

The Department of Defense estimates that only 20 percent of sexual assaults in the military are reported. With the attention being paid to the issue it brings up the question of whether there has been an increase in the number of sexual assaults in the military or whether it is that more are being reported now than in the past? Studies tell us that 1 in 4 females will be sexual assaulted by the time they are 18 and 1 in 10 males (Rosas, 2003, p. 82).

A New York Times article (Bumiller, 2010) indicated in the prior fiscal year, September 2009 to September 2010, sexual assaults in the military increased 11 percent overall, but also noted there was a 16 percent increase in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The article also pointed to the fact that the Pentagon indicated that this increase may be due more to an increase in the level of reporting than an actual increase in assaults.

CULTURE

Some particular characteristics of a changing military culture including the changing role of women need to be considered. In the past the operational aspects of the military for the most part was all male. With it there was a culture, language and behavior that often were negatively directed toward a number of diverse ethnic groups, gays, and women. It was often limited to the confines of a military facility and not displayed in the larger public. As American Society has changed it also brought changes to the military. Women are no longer in separate isolated roles. They are often integrated with their male counterparts working closely together 24 hours a day. They are often together in remote locations with limited ability to get far away from the operational work they are involved in. This change in work environment has had an impact on the military culture that has brought conflict with what it was in the past. Often progress in one area such as integration of females has caused issues in another. A recent Newsweek article reported that the chances of a woman being sexually assaulted by one of her fellow soldiers is greater than her being killed in combat (Ellison, 2011).

From a male perspective there has also been a significant increase in or at least an increase in the reporting of male-on-male sexual assaults. For years the military played down and in many cases covered up male-on-male sexual assaults, but in 2009 the Department of Veterans Affairs reported that over 50,000 male veterans screened positive for military sexual trauma as compared to 30,000 in 2003 (Ellison, 2011). Up until 1992 the Department of Defense did not acknowledge sexual assault of members by other members, and then initially only female victims were recognized.

Some of the issues came from the military's own definition of rape. In 1951 the military put into effect its Uniform Code of Military Justice. It established a set of codes for all the services and included times of military service in both war and peace. Specifically Article 120 defined rape as "an act of sexual intercourse with a female not his wife, by force and without her consent." It also included "special rules" where rape cases needed corroboration, a requirement that the complaint be current and not dated. …