Sexual harassment in military has always been a cause for people to raise concern. However, why is it that till this day, cases for such acts are still on the increase despite the new initiatives rolled out year by year. We can take a look at the statistics provided by the respective governments (US and UK) to better understand the situation.
Information from Ministry of Defence – UK British Army sexual harassment report 2015
Information from Ministry of Defence – US SAPRO Statistical Data on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault APY 14-15
Generally, females are still the more “vulnerable” genders as military is still a male dominated sector. And in a normal sexual relationship, it is usually a male-female one, of course there are male-male or female-female relationships. Now lets think of some reasons for sexual harassment to happen and what might have promoted it as well as what could have caused the victims to be not report such incident.
Feres Doctrine (US)
A doctrine that bars claims against the federal government by members of the armed forces and their families for injuries arising from or in the course of activity incident to military service.
This will also mean that rape / sexual harassment is part of Occupational Hazard. Hey, it is something that happens during the military service so you can’t prosecute me for that. There has been lots of challenges to this but not much successful has been achieved. The Feres Doctrine needs to be revisited and revised so that it will be more applicable to the current state of the world. Of course a periodic reviews needs to be done that ensure that it stays relevant to the state of art.
Insider Cover Up
It is hard to obtain evidence pertaining to the act. This is especially so when the perpetrator is someone that is of higher ranking and has the control over the flow of information. People may collaborate together and commit the rape / sexual harassment. Information can be limited as people can always state that the information required involves “National Security Sensitive” information and should not be revealed to others. A victim with the knowledge of knowing that providing the proof will be hard will be deterred from reporting such incidents especially so one can be prosecuted for filing a false report.
Preying on the young and weak
A lot of time such harassment occurs due to the presence of threat, intimidation or lack of knowledge. As from the statistics, a bulk of the incidents happens to the junior servicemen / servicewomen. For fear of their career advancement, many whom have suffered from such harassment chose to kept quiet about it. Next, group intimidation is also serious problem as people can be ostracised simply but not going with the crowd. And we all know how bad it is when we are in an environment like that, the pain, anguish and matter torture can drive one to death. Many young people lacks the knowledge like where to report such incidents, their rights in workplaces.
The need for more public attention
Notice the sharp drop in number of incidents for certain years, because in the year before lots of attention has been diverted to such cases and this has caused a deterrent to people who may have wanted to commit such acts. Knowing that the chances that they will get reported and prosecuted successfully due to the public’s attention, perpetrators will lie low till the situation gets better and this is when we see the sudden surge in cases year after. People need to learn to embrace the victims of such harassment and applaud them for their courage for fighting for their rights instead of seeing them in another light.
The trial of such cases
Any such court trial will tend to be long, mentally draining and financially draining. Look, you are suing a government body – they have the time, resources, money. Many times, victims after careful consideration will just let it go due to the respective constraints they have. Not forgetting during the court sessions, the victims will be cross-examined, drilled, grilled till that their mental limit.There should be a framework for this that will help protect the victims and rehabilitation programme to help them get back on track in their life healing from their traumatic experience.
Although, statistics may be available for only a few countries, I strongly believed that such occurrences of sexual harassment are not limited to a few countries, in fact most of the countries might have the same situation only differing in the gravity.
Much needs to be done, the few words covered here will not be enough to alleviate the whole situation. But I believe everyone can do their part in making the military sector a better place to work in.