My Strength is for Defending

I’m pretty excited to be writing this post right now. The weather here in lovely Boston is absolute crap, I’ve been sleeping like absolute crap, and I just had to pay an absolute crap electric bill. Are we sensing a trend here? So, upon receiving good news this morning, I am extra happy.

Sexual assault in the military is a huge problem (wait, this is good news? Bear with me, it’s coming). However, as April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month (that’s a different rant altogether), the Department of Defense has partnered with Men Can Stop Rape to run a campaign to raise awareness about sexual violence in the military and foster a “culture of prevention.”
From the press release:

The DoD SAPRO campaign will reach all branches of the military with the theme “Our Strength Is for Defending…Preventing Sexual Assault Is Part of Our Duty” and will include educational materials for all media, including print, television, radio, digital, and posters. Emphasizing the importance of supporting survivors of sexual violence and defusing situations that might lead to sexual assault, the materials will be disseminated to every U.S. military installation throughout the world.

Personally, I think that’s a great theme. It’s a good approach to take to the issue–making the concept of preventing sexual violence into an aspect of being a service member. Make it into an identity, and attach pride to it. I think that’s a great idea.

Patrick McGann, MCSR’s Project Director for the development of the DoD campaign adds, “While the realization of a culture of sexual assault prevention is still off in the distance for the military and for us all, we take hope in what the Department of Defense and all of us are doing starting in April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month and throughout the year to prevent sexual assault.” (Emphasis mine.)

Ain’t that the damn truth, Mr. McGann. Thanks for recognizing it, though. I’ll award you one Internet High FiveTM for that one. In all seriousness, though, the lack of acknowledgment that sexual assault is so pervasive in the military is part of why it has continued for so long. Assaults are common place and nothing is done against them; female service members generally do not report assaults, and when they do, backlash, often severe, comes around to ensure that no more reports are made.

In a study done in 2003, 79% of women veterans reported sexual harassment, with 54% reporting unwanted sexual contact and 30% reporting one or more rapes. God damn. And of these, 75% did not get reported. Extra god damn.

So what we’re looking at is a nearly blanket experience of sexual assault, a 1 in 2 rate of sexual contact, and 1 in 3 rate of completed rapes (note: the study asked about completed, not attempted, rapes). Often times this behavior is carried out by a superior officer, which leaves the victim in a nearly impossible to deal with situation, or multiple members of her unit are involved, leaving her again in a situation that is very difficult to navigate. Female cadets are often warned that they should expect this kind of treatment, so when they are assaulted, they feel a bit nihilistic about reporting–why bother? It’s to be expected.

It’s a horribly depressing topic, over all, especially as more and more people are turning to the military for employment with our economy looking so very frail. Come for the career opportunities and college tuition assistance, stay for the rape! I sincerely hope that this campaign is just the start of how the DoD and the military branches will be acting on preventing sexual assault. For now, though, at least it’s a start, and right now, that is fucking great news from where I’m standing.

Check out the posters, or TV spots one and two.

I have mixed feelings on the posters, and I think the TV spots could be better, though #2 is pretty good. But like I said, it’s a start–breaking the silence is a huge step.


04/03/2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized.

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