Military Sexual Violence: We're Still Talking About It

A few weeks ago, I was at a local store.  As I made my way to the checkout counter, I struck up a conversation with the young girl working there.  She informed me that she had just graduated high school.  When I asked her if she planned to attend college, she proudly stated that she would be going into the military this fall.  I found it interesting that my heart kind of sunk in my chest.  Yes, the military is an honorable career path.  I respect anyone who is willing to take on the duties that are required in that field.  I have friends and family members in the military, and I am fiercely proud of them.  So, when I had that feeling, it really startled me.  But what I was feeling at that moment was a sense of dread for what this young woman might be facing as she enters this institution.  My mind reeled with statistics from the recent reports about the prevalence of sexual violence in military settings.

It’s not to say that she wouldn’t face similar issues in a college or university setting.  Every institution struggles with preventing and addressing sexual violence.  But we know more now about the pervasiveness of sexually violent behavior in military settings than ever before.  And we know that the military has been slow to address the problem in meaningful ways (read my previous blog, Can Military Culture Be Changed? for a good overview on addressing harmful norms and the need for culture change in the military).   So, it was with hesitation that I offered this young woman my congratulations and wished her luck.

One thing that we are doing to help support efforts to change military culture and norms is our latest resource guide, Sexual Violence in the Military: A Guide for Civilian Advocates This guide focuses on the impact of sexual violence in the military. It includes resources for advocates who, through relationships and collaborations with the military, can offer support in responding to the needs of survivors and preventing sexual violence.   We hope that the guide, talking points, and the infographic will serve as resources for those working to prevent sexual violence in military settings.  If you are doing this work, please share with us by commenting below.