Sexual assault affects a significant number of service members in the army, which raises much concern as the issue has not only been amplified but also been disregarded by officials. The Sexual Harassment/ Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program, first introduced in 2006, has been proactively working to end sexual assault and sexual harassment within the army’s ranks. The SHARP program educates trains and provides essential resources needed to create an army free of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other associated disciplinary behaviors (USAPD 69). However, the cases of sexual assault and harassment in my unit have increased significantly over the past three years. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to discuss how a toxic command climate increases sexual assault and harassment tolerance attitudes among troops and how a comprehensive military reform would help end the atrocious acts in my unit.
Sexual assault occurs because of the toxic command climate instituted within the military units. The behavior of top leaders, including their practices and choice of words, shapes the climate of the working environment (Sadler et al. 147). The military has abusive and arrogant leaders who not only target and sexually assault their subordinates but also fail to listen to such complaints. 24% of women and 6% of men serving in the military have reported toxicity in their chains of command (Rempfer). According to the testimony of a former soldier to the Parrish’s group, an authority figure sexually assaulted her, but when she reported to several officers in her chain of command, they told her that she would be charged with adultery if she continued to pursue her complaint (Childress). While the SHARP program effectively educates soldiers on the existing problem of sexual assault, it fails to target the norms that have long existed in the army that perpetuate a climate conducive to sexual harassment and assault. For the past 25 years, SHARP officials have been claiming that they have zero tolerance for sexual assault (Rempfer). However, the current training approach fails to reduce the risk of sexual assault and harassment in the military.
The toxic chain of command has initiated a harassment-tolerant attitude among the troops. Victims of sexual assault do not report because they believe the commander will do nothing about it, or they fear negative repercussions and retaliation (Human Rights Watch). Survivors have repeatedly claimed that their commander denied them opportunities for deployments, training, and promotions. Recently, the Air National Guard sergeant reported that her wing commander denied her promotion after reporting a sexual assault (Human Rights Watch). Therefore, predatory supervisors, top leaders, and fellow service members continue to sexually harass the troops, both male and female, because their actions are neither detected nor held accountable.
Sexual assault allegations should be removed from the chain of command to support survivors and ensure fair conduction of investigations and trials. The same people required to protect their troops are condoning sexual assault. The SHARP program should push for comprehensive and overwhelming criminal justice reform. The criminal justice system should practice military justice on sexual assault without allowing the chain of command to intervene. It should dismiss all perpetrators found guilty of sexual assault from duty and put them in prison. Additionally, the members of the SHARP program should educate and remind the troops of their rights and encourage them to report cases of sexual assault.
Sexual assault in my unit is increasing steadily due to the toxicity in the chain of command. Authorities in the army not only sexually harass and assault their troops for their sexual endeavors but also dismiss the reported incidences. Survivors of sexual assault fail to get the justice they deserve while sexual assault continues to amplify in the military unit because of the toxic leaders. Therefore, the noxious command must be stripped of the authority to intervene in military justice to ensure fairness in the investigations and trials related to sexual assault and protect the service members safeguarding our nation.
Childress, Sara. “Why the military has sexual assault problem.” Frontline. Available at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/why-the-military-has-a-rape-problem/
Human Rights Watch. “Embattled retaliation against sexual assault survivors in the US military.” Human Rights Watch. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/05/18/embattled/retaliation-against-sexual-assault-survivors-us-military
Rempfer, Kyle. Sexual assault numbers, suicides on the rise: “Clearly we have to do something different,” acting Army secretary says. Army Times. 2019. Available at: https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/08/21/sexual-assault-numbers-suicides-on-the-rise-clearly-we-have-to-do-something-different-acting-army-secretary-says/
Sadler, G. Anne, Mengeling, A. Michele, Booth, M. Brenda, O’Shea, Amy M. J. and Torner, C. James. “The relationship between US military officer leadership behaviors and risk of sexual assault of Reserve, National Guard, and active component servicewomen in nondeployed locations.” American Journal of Public Health 107.1 (2017): 147-155. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308164/
USAPD. “Chapter 8: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program,” AR 600-20, 2008. https://www.sexualassault.army.mil/files/r600_20_chapter7.pdf
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