Fear of retaliation apparently on the decline in 2013

Posted in Sexual Harassment on December 30, 2013

The military has long struggled with many stigmas. One of those stigmas is that reporting any kind of sexual harassment or assault will result in some kind of retaliation. Military men and women in California may be pleasantly surprised to know that the number of reported assaults increased by 50% in 2013.

Obviously the good news is not that the harassment is still taking place, but rather that the victims are not as afraid of coming forward to make reports. The data that was collected throughout the year indicated that the level of harassment has not decreased, as some 26,000 service members anonymously reported experiencing some kind of unwanted contact. The incidents recorded included harassment, sexual contact and assaults.

One reason that the military has had a special problem with sexual harassment and assault is that the culture itself engrains the ethics of working hard and not complaining into the ranks. Soldiers are taught to be tough, both mentally and physically. In addition, the military breeds loyalty, and while standing up against violence and sexual harassment certainly cannot be considered a form of disloyalty, victims have a tendency to avoid “ratting out” their brethren.

One aspect of harassment in the military that has been especially troubling is the long-lasting effect that reporting an incident can have on a low-ranking service member’s career. Especially if the incident involves reporting a superior’s untoward behavior, the service member likely expects to be rebuffed and perhaps retaliated against, and kept from progressing in rank. Some legislation that was recently enacted by the President will make it harder for incidents to be swept under the carpet and for victims to be retaliated against.

While it is clear that the battle is far from over for service men and women in California, it does appear that progress is being made. Victims should know that the fear of retaliation that keeps them silent helps the perpetrator grow stronger and perhaps even allows more harassment to take place. In the military and in every occupation there are laws that protect employees from that kind of injustice.

Source: cbs8.com, Military sex assault reports jump by 50 percent, No author, Dec. 27, 2013