Veterans Day: Recognize military sexual assault

Veterans Day is a national holiday to honor the United States armed forces. During this day, many pay tribute to those who have died or have been injured due to their service. However, we often ignore the impacts of sexual trauma within the military.

Here’s a few facts to help present the magnitude of this issue:

  1. According to the Pentagon, 38 military men are sexually assaulted every single day.
  2. The moment a man enlists in the United States armed forces, his chances of being sexually assaulted increase tenfold.
  3. Although women are much more likely to be victims of military sexual trauma (MST), far fewer of them enlist.
  4. Nearly 14,000 military men were sexually assaulted in 2012.
  5. Prior to the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011, male-on-male-rape victims could actually be discharged for having engaged in homosexual conduct.
  6. Men develop PTSD from sexual assault at nearly twice the rate they do from combat.

We know that many civilian rapes go unreported. The same happens within the military. Society’s construction of gender roles and stereotypes contributes to this problem.

Men—especially soldiers, marines and airmen—are expected to be strong, aggressive and dominant. Their “masculinity” is usually equated to their sexual prowess and activity. With these combined expectations, it can be difficult for male survivors to report their assaults.

Unfortunately, when sexual assault goes unreported, offenders go unpunished. This allows a cycle to continue unnoticed, ignored and even encouraged. Although the armed forces has made improvements in its culture, policies and practices, it still requires more work–and so do we.

We need to recognize that men and those serving in the armed forced are fully human, have an array of characteristics and traits, and are at risk of experiencing sexual trauma.

Believe and support sexual assault survivors—male or female, civilian or veteran.

For more information about this issue, refer to the U.S. SAPRO and/or human rights organization, Protect Our Defenders.

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