It’s An Epidemic

Alright, ladies and gents, let’s tackle this sensitive topic head-on. The sexual assault epidemic in the US military is no joke. In fact, the stats are downright alarming. According to a 2020 Pentagon report, a whopping 8,866 service members reported some form of sexual harassment or assault in just the previous year.

Now, let’s get to the extreme cases. We’re talking about incidents like the Tailhook scandal of 1991, where over 100 women were physically and verbally assaulted by military personnel at a convention. Or the recent case of Vanessa Guillen, a soldier who was murdered at Fort Hood after reporting sexual harassment. These are just two examples of many that show the pervasive and insidious nature of sexual assault in the military.

As for the more recent ones, we will look at Lauren King’s experience with sexual assault as an ROTC member. King was sexually assaulted by a male cadet while attending a summer training program in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She eventually left ROTC due to her trauma from the incident and now advocates for survivors of military sexual trauma.

“I had this dream to be in the military. … I felt like I couldn’t work toward those goals because of what I was dealing with,” King told USA Today. “These things still impact me today: Being afraid of guys or being afraid to get close to people, (and) seeing the worst in people.”

The next case is that of Sgt. Jennifer Norris, who was raped by another soldier while serving in Iraq. At first, Norris did not report the rape for fear of being met with disbelief from her superiors and facing retaliation for speaking out about her experience. She eventually filed a lawsuit against the Army for its failure to protect her from sexual assault and won $3 million in damages.

“I didn’t report that crime, and here is why. I could not face that it happened. I didn’t want to start out my military career like that, and so I determined that I would never talk about it to anyone. From that day forward, I avoided the recruiter at all costs and soldiered on. I have never seen him since.”

And for the Sgt. Norris, this is not the only time this happened.

“I was assaulted a second time at Keesler Air Force Base after Basic Training by my instructor. I was attending Satellite and Wideband Communications technical school. I was there for 6 months. While there, I learned very quickly that if you reported sexual harassment, assault, or were offended by someone’s lewd and crude remarks that you will be quickly turned out of the Air Force. So, I planned to get through it, go back home and serve with the Maine Air National Guard, where I thought I would be safe. I just sucked it up and kept my mouth shut so I could graduate. I watched an Active Duty Air Force female, who to this day is one of my best friends, get swiftly booted from the military, after she reported that one of her instructor’s made derogatory remarks to her during class. This girl was 19 years old. The military training managers engaged in what appeared to be a witch-hunt and looked for anything and everything to kick her out. In the end, they were successful. Today she suffers severe PTSD from this experience.”