Sexual Assaults in the Army

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Table of Contents

  • Gender Stereotypes
  • Military Chain of Command
  • Alcohol

Sexual assault is an issue that has raised concerns and become persistence in the American military. Notably, an estimate of over 20,000 individuals accomplishing military duties claimed to have been assaulted sexually in 2014 (Castro et al., 2015). Remarkably, for any sexual conviction due to sexual assault to occur, the action must be proven to have accomplished without an individual’s consent. However, this sexual assault aspect has been hard to prove in military courts leading to conviction rates of less than 10% in the military (Castro et al., 2015). The paper will discuss increase in sexual assault cases in the military focusing on the influencing factors.

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Gender Stereotypes

The military leadership is male-dominated creating a power difference between women and men in the service. The aspect plays a role in aggravating sexual misconduct. The traditional negative attitudes and hyper-masculine beliefs towards female members have encouraged perpetration and acceptance of sexual assault and harassment. Besides, the homophobia culture in the military enhances the sexual assault risks. The stigma and fear attached to being stamped as a homosexual prevents the victims of sexual assault from reporting the incidences. The hyper-masculine men feeling threatened through other ways by their fellows may have the urge to show their masculinity constantly by using sexual behaviors or language (Catro, 2015). Women in the U.S military have reported being subjected to anger or jealousy, and viewed as incompetent by male colleagues.

Military Chain of Command

Outstandingly, in the military, the handling of sexual assaults is done within a chain of command. Therefore, the victim’s commanding officer is in charge of the case and thus has the power to intervene, interfere with the investigation, throw away a conviction, or reduce the sentence. Notably, one in a group of four women in the military is assaulted by men in their chain of command (Cohen, 2018). The “good soldier defense” is applied in the military justice system whereby successful and decorated soldiers who have committed sexual assaults enjoy the benefits of doubt. The aspect creates a breeding ground for male soldiers to assault women. The military chain of command has a perceived “code of silence”. The code creates an environment in which the victims fail to seek help or report. Particularly, this because of the fear of negative repercussions and retaliations or having the belief that nothing will be done. According to DoD data, 62% of the females who reported their sexual assault cases experienced retaliation in 2014 (Castro et al., 2015). Particularly, according to Castro et al. (2015), 35% of the victims reported adverse administrative action, 53% social retaliation, 11% being given punishments, and 32% receiving professional reprisals.

Notably, of all 5900 reports about military sexual assaults in 2014, an administrative or legal action was received by less than a third of the perpetrators (Castro et al., 2015). Conviction rate associated with sexual assault for the duration, according to Castro et al. (2015), was less than 10%, which is low in comparison to offenses such as organized crime standing at 90%. Sexual assault victims face dismissal, blame, and incredulous questioning even when it is clear that the action occurred. The investigators often refuse to take the victims report on grounds that there are no prove the behavior occurred despite the perpetrators admitting their actions. For instance, in the case of Reyes who was raped by her fellow platoon member, the investigators concluded, “There wasn't enough to prosecute”, despite her giving an account of all what had happened (Cohen, 2018). The male perpetrator was allowed to execute his normal duties without being charged in the military court regarding Reye’s accusations.


According to 2005 DoD data, alcohol contributed to 58% of the sexual assault cases associated with the military sector (Castro et al., 2015). In most cases, either the victim or perpetrator, or both are found to have taken alcohol. Alcohol leads to increases in risk taking and sexual desires. The “Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention” (SHARP) office was established to take central responsibility for military sexual assault prevention and training. However, the military trainings are flawed making it difficult to reduce sexual assaults. Notably, the training content varies between military branches and group participation does not promote interaction. Besides, there is lack of concern to the trainee and trainer demographic composition. In the naval branch, the training is conducted to both senior and junior personnel in one sitting. Due to the military hierarchical culture, such training discourages the participation of junior trainees (Holland, Rabelo, & Cortina, 2014). The SHARP training program also relies on military commanders whose duty is to prevent sexual assaults but have been charged with the same offence.

Remarkably, establishing a standard training program for all military branches will improve the training effectiveness. A population-level change in the military cultural attitudes and norms towards sexual aggression can also solve the issue. Adult-learning theory, which encourages learning participation and interaction, should be implemented to address army sexual assaults. Sexual violence can be eliminated effectively if laws are established to deal with the assaulters and fight for the rights of the victims.

In conclusion, alcohol, military chain of command, and gender stereotypes are aspects that encourage military sexual assaults. The military culture creates an environment that discourages the reporting of sexual abuse due to fear of victimization, blame, and dismissal. Alcohol deprives the personnel of their morals making them to engage in sexual behaviors. The male dominated military leadership exposes women to male stereotypes making them victims of sexual abuse. Effective training programs, which are standard for all military branches and consider demographic composition, can be implemented to solve the problem.

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