By Debbie Gregory.
January 8, 2018 was a momentous date in the lives of a group of military sexual assault survivors, as the #MeToo movement spread from politics to Hollywood to the media and finally to the military.
With messages such as “Denial is not a policy” and “Veterans demand reform,” protesters stood their ground as they demanded that the Pentagon take increased action to stop sexual assaults in the military.
Within the ranks of the male-dominated U.S. military, a culture of sexual assault, harassment and retaliation for those who come forward remains pervasive. But just as heavyweights in the aforementioned industries have fallen, so too is it time for all military personnel, from the highly decorated to the peers to be held accountable.
The Pentagon estimates that for the last three years, more than 18,000 sexual assaults have taken place, although the number is grossly below the actual number since two-thirds of victims don’t report. Convictions are rare.
While Army Col. Rob Manning said there was “zero tolerance” for sexual assault or harassment in the military, the reality is that the misogynistic military culture puts military sexual assault cases in the hands of commanders, which is akin to having the fox guard the henhouse.
Attorney Monica Medina, who faced career retaliation after rebuffing the advances of a senior office while in the Army, helped draft protections for women in the military who were assaulted, including ensuring that victims have a lawyer and removing certain cases from the chain of command.
Of course, there are men who have also been victimized by military sexual assault, and the movement is for their benefit as well. But their numbers are nowhere near the 80% of female troops who have experienced some sort of sexual harassment.
“Women in service to their nation deserve better,” Medina said.