The Roots Of Sexual Abuse In The Military

Posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2019 at 9:33 pm    

Sexual assault in the military affects service members of all genders, ages, ranks and sexualities. Trauma from sexual assault can have both short-term and long-term effects on the victims. Survivors of military sexual assault find it harder to take time off or away from work to cope with their trauma, as compared to civilians. Continuing to work and live alongside their assailant may force these victims to relive their painful trauma every day. As with civilian survivors, emotional and psychological issues can hinder an individual’s ability to perform physically and fully in their employment. This often reduces the victims’ overall quality of life. These mental and physical problems can develop immediately after the attack, or they can take years after the service member has parted ways with the military.

Often times, military sexual assault victims try to push the memory of their incident to the back of, or out of, their minds. When big events occur, such as getting married or having children, this hidden memory resurfaces and causes a lot of pain and discomfort. Sexual assault in civilian life mirrors sexual assault amongst veterans, however, military culture may exacerbate such affects. Similarly, gender stereotypes are prevalent in both civilian and military life. However, the patriarchal configuration and the prominence placed on masculine standards in the military have the potential to incite notions of hostility, dominance, self-support and risk taking. The military is an environment that has typically been perceived as homophobic. When added to power differentials between men and women, men try to exercise their masculinity through sexual behavior and language. When coupled with a sense of entitlement to sex, this hyper-masculinity can become threatening.

At times, soldiers are taught that empathy is weakness. Thus, soldiers tend to limit their empathy in order to complete their duties, which may also apply to their fellow service members. This lack of empathy amongst the service members can make it easier to perpetrate sexual assault. Cultural acceptance is one of the military’s biggest downfalls in regard to sexual assault. Civilian survivors of sexual assault and military victims often do not seek help or report because they fear that nothing will be done from their report. Both encounter feelings of blame, humiliation, invasion of privacy, incredulous questioning and even retaliation, all of which can worsen the victims’ mental growth. Unit cohesion is one of the many cultural factors that are specific and contribute to sexual assault in the military.

Feelings of betrayal often prevent a military victim from reporting, as they do not want to be viewed as a “trader” to their unit. The victims feel as though they will cause trouble and disrupt the morale and cohesion of their group. These emotions increase the level of conflict to the situation that may not be present in other situations when reporting sexual assault. As a result of the value placed on team performance, higher authority may minimize or dismiss claims against top leaders. As a team, service members are expected to solve conflicts amongst themselves, which can result in assault and harassment going unreported. Movement of military personnel is critical for professional development, but it allows perpetrators to take advantage of new service members to the unit.

Team allegiance is one of the most valued aspects in the military. Therefore, reporting a fellow team member can be viewed as a form of disloyalty. Other members may feel as though this isn’t really a big deal, and that reporting would be unnecessary. When service members report, the leaders of that team often worry that they will be blamed for allowing such an incident to occur. This can lead the higher authority to distance themselves from the incidents altogether. The military reporting system is a complicated process on its own. Although members have the ability to choose to report privately, maintaining that confidentiality can be difficult to uphold. While the military does have resilience building programs that train the service members to cope in stressful situations, these programs actually have the effect of preventing such members from seeking help. Prior restrictions on job assignments, such as women being prevented from positions that led to promotion, sent a viral message that they were not as valuable as men.

The military places a lot of emphasis on training, specifically prevention training. While all service members receive mirror prevention training, not everyone is at equal risk. Such trainings are deficient in health risk reduction strategies. Living arrangements are another aspect of military life that tend to encourage sexual assault. Co-ed living spaces and barracks are high-risk areas. Although significant efforts should be undertaken to enhance safety of the occupants, they often are not. The military legal system involves various rules that make convictions problematic. Older policies permitted military performance of the perpetrator, and the lifestyle of the victim to be considered as evidence.

Sexual assault in the military festers due to its leadership structure. Such attacks are handled within the higher command. That means, the commanding officer of a victim within the team has the ability to intervene at any time: to halt an investigation, minimize a sentence or even set aside a conviction. As the issue of sexual assault in the military is now widely acknowledged, high-ranking officials have begun to belatedly address it due to public pressure. While sexual assault in the military has largely been focused on service women, sexual violence in the armed forces affects large numbers of men as well. Most men and women do not report incidents of sexual assault; however, the number has been growing in recent years.
While it is understandably very difficult to voice one’s trauma, it is crucial for the veterans whom are victims of sexual assault to immediately consult and hire an experienced, compassionate and committed attorney who knows how to aggressively protect his or her rights. Because these experiences often rock military and non-military victims to their core and result in delayed disclosure and reporting, litigating claims that span several decades becomes complicated. New York State has progressed immensely with its’ receptiveness to abuse victims’ voices. The right to legal recourse is one of the steps New York has taken with the hope of healing, redressing, and protecting these victims of sexual abuse.

The next step to be attained is in the area of understanding the explicit and unequivocal need for attorneys who can handle such complicated litigation. Hach & Rose, LLP., is versed in complicated lawsuits and its attorneys are fearless in taking on lawsuits with powerful Defendants. A proud addition to our firm, Stanley Spero, has been specializing in representing victims of sexual exploitation by professionals since 1985, and is revered nationally for his focus and his industry savvy. He has been recognized by Martindale-Hubbell as an AV Preeminent Attorney. The AV Preeminent rating is the pinnacle of professional excellence earned through a strenuous Peer Review Rating process. Mr. Spero has also obtained a Superb 10.0 rating from AVVO for his experience, industry recognition and professional conduct. Mr. Spero is the President and Director of Advocate Web, a nonprofit corporation providing support and educational services to victims of professional exploitation.
At Hach & Rose, LLP, we are committed to working diligently and zealously to represent those who could not protect themselves. If you or a loved one has suffered from any form of sexual abuse, it is critical to act now. Do not hesitate to contact the New York sexual abuse lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP today at (212) 779-0057. Our compassionate, caring, and experienced attorneys will work diligently to uncover whether criminal charges, a civil lawsuit – or both – can be filed against the perpetrator or negligent third party who is responsible for the abuse and its damages to you.

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