Archive for July 2011
Recently, we published a blog post titled, “Washington Seeks to Fight Military Sexual Trauma…But What’s the Best Way?”
One reader and military veteran provided us with a response that I wanted to share:
From my own experience in the Army, the problem with sexual harassment and trauma is pervasive throughout military life. I am a female and experienced numerous events of sexual harassment and other encounters with higher ranking NCOs and officers.
I was able to brush much of it off with either a sharp retort, rolling my eyes, or just walking away. But when I did finally attempt to communicate a situation that was making me incredibly uncomfortable, my comments (to our FEMALE EO officer) were brushed off.
She used the regulations to twist the situation and make it look like something that wasn’t reportable. But the way I felt inside about this particular person (our Company First Sergeant) made it certain to me that his behavior was NOT acceptable . I knew then that there was really no point in trying to report anything else. It would be up to me to deal with it.
Honestly, I think that men will talk bull and swagger to each other as part of their own ego, self-esteem, and bonding and they do it for the most part without any intention of harassing or hurting the other person. Men try to do this with women, too, but females don’t bond with other females in this way.
Men are attracted to women, which in some ways is a lot like jealousy, envy, or adoration they might have for other men’s lives, body parts, intellects, whatever. I think men just naturally cross that line with females without meaning malice, anguish, or injury. Most military men I knew were not out to hurt women…
The camaraderie and close working relationships that develop from sharing difficult or challenging experiences naturally lead to sexual attraction—this is true for both sexes. It’s troublesome that the services haven’t figured out a way to honestly acknowledge that unwanted sexual advances happen and teach women good ways to deal with them. A “No Tolerance” policy only encourages those who have been harassed to not report the encounter. I, for one, wouldn’t want to send someone to Leavenworth because he was attracted to me and was too boneheaded to realize that I didn’t want to sleep with him.
I don’t have all the answers. It just seems like more regulation and mandatory training is not going to help. Military reg should recognize that sometimes a hug from a Sergeant who is a friend and a hug from a First Sergeant who is NOT a friend is not the same thing and shouldn’t be treated as such. The way the reg was applied in my case only served to fail me twice: it didn’t stop the harassment from happening nor did it provide me with an avenue for redress.