Roughly 90 percent of sexual harassment and assault incidents go unreported at service academies, according to a 2007-2008 Defense Department report. Roughly one-third involve alcohol. More from the Times Herald-Record:
Candid testimonials crux of new campaign
By Alexa James
WEST POINT — The Defense Department has launched a new sexual assault prevention campaign that holds the entire military accountable for protecting its own.
“So when I saw she was drunk, I told my battle buddy: Ask her when she’s sober,” read the posters popping up at bases across the country. Candid testimonials are the crux of the military’s new program. The research-based curriculum coaches service members through everyday scenarios that pose life-changing risks.
“One of the most effective methods of preventing sexual assault is bystander intervention,” said Dr. Kaye Whitley, director of the Defense Department’s office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. Just like taking the keys away from someone who’s been drinking, “it is everyone’s responsibility to step up,” she said.
Whitley visited the U.S. Military Academy this week, with a team from the Pentagon, to discuss the new campaign and to critique West Point’s sexual assault prevention programs.
“We’re very proud of West Point and what they’ve done,” she said, but problems persist.
Roughly 90 percent of sexual harassment and assault incidents go unreported at service academies, according to a 2007-2008 Defense Department report. Roughly one-third involve alcohol.
West Point investigated four cases in 2008. Two were considered unfounded, one subject was found not guilty of rape but dishonorably discharged for lying, and the fourth was sentenced only for drunk and disorderly conduct and is now on administrative leave. Militarywide, the Defense Department tallied 2,908 sexual assaults in 2008, an 8 percent increase over 2007.
To encourage more service members to speak up, the department is expanding options for victims. Service members are now allowed to file an anonymous report to a trained sexual assault response coordinator. Doing so gives them access to medical care and counseling, even if they don’t press charges.
“I know a lot of females are scared to come forward. They feel like they’re going to be embarrassed,” said Sgt. Aleatha Taylor, 25, an Army recruiter in Middletown. No one wants to be “that girl,” she said, particularly in a high-pressure setting like Iraq or Afghanistan. When Taylor was a teenager and new to the Army, she said she was sexually harassed by a married platoon sergeant.
She reported him to her chain of command. “It was good that I did,” Taylor said. “Other females came forward then, too.” The sergeant was kicked out.
The new campaign attacks the attitude of looking the other way. “It’s OK to intervene,” Whitley said. “We want any potential predator out there to think that the military is the last place that he wants to be.”