Proud as San Diegans are of their history as a military town, they also know better than most about the reputation of sailors on shore leave. And according to the military’s annual fiscal-year report, some of those irresponsible servicemen have been bringing the “shore leave” mentality back to base with them.
The Navy wasn’t alone in this increase. According to the same study, reports of sexual assault in the Army increased by 50%, in the Air Force by 45%, and in the Marines — the service’s smallest branch — by a whopping 86%. That’s practically double.
The jump in the numbers of reports is a surprise to many. Even more surprising is the fact that, in many ways, it is a good sign.
Is the Culture of Silence Disappearing?
Last year, an anonymous survey revealed more than 26,000 service members had experienced some kind of unwanted sexual contact or assault but did not report it. The jump in percentages from the annual report suggests that there aren’t necessarily more violations — 0nly that more are being reported. Victims are becoming less hesitant to come forward.
The military officials who compiled the new information agree that the military environment doesn’t make it easy for a victim to come forward with a complaint of any kind. At best, the emphasis on loyalty, rank and personal toughness makes many servicemen and women reluctant to accuse a fellow service member of a serious offense and carry the stigma of being a “victim” in a profession that prides itself on strength. At the deeper end, many are afraid of repercussions if they complain against a commanding officer.
But it seems that scandals involving the arrests of high-ranking officials and increased publicity to the issue have given victims courage to come forward, knowing that they are not alone and that their speaking out may help others to do the same.
Jill Loftus, director of the Navy’s sexual assault program, told the Associated Press that military personnel are waking up to what constitutes sexual assault … and what does not constitute an excuse.
Government Officials Speaking Up About Assault
In the wake of this report, Congress has snapped into action. One of the many military-related bills President Barack Obama signed into law last week was a defense authorization bill that, among other things, institutes 3 very important changes. The bill:
- Takes away the ability of military commanders to overturn convictions for sexual assault
- Requires a civilian review when commanders decline to prosecute accused assailants
- Makes it a crime to punish victims who report an assault
Additionally, the Pentagon has launched new training programs for both officers and rank-and-file soldiers, the Associated Press reported. A key goal of the programs is to preempt sexual misconduct by encouraging service members to keep each other accountable and intervene in situations to prevent someone from being victimized. On the punitive end of the scale, many military commanders are taking action more publicly, even to the point of trying cases out in the open on parade fields, so that all can observe the consequences.
Legal Rights for Victims
Jessica Pride is a personal injury attorney in San Diego committed to seeking justice for sexual assault victims in civil court. Justice cannot be achieved if victims are afraid to come forward, and she is sharing this information because she believes it is essential to empower victims. Due to the military’s own unique justice system, Jessica may not be able to use her legal skills to help service members who fall victim to sexual assault like she has done for college students, victimized employees and other members of the general public in the San Diego area. But every victim of sexual assault has rights, and help is available. A system that deters sexual assault victims for reporting the crimes committed against them is wrong, and Jessica is committed to changing it.
Call Jessica today at (619) 995-6829 or contact her online to learn how she may be able to seek justice for you if you’ve been sexually assaulted.