Military Leader Perceptions on Sexual Assaults against Female Service Members
Burns, Wallace A Jr
The Department of Defense (DOD) Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report on Sexual Assaults in the Military indicated sexual assaults on female service members have increased threefold since 2004 and spiked by 50% during the 2012–2013 reporting period. Not surprisingly, reducing military sexual assaults has become a major priority for the uniformed armed services. This study investigated military leader perceptions of the problem to understand better their leadership viewpoints and how these perceptions might be synthesized into a framework or plan of action for the military services to use to reduce sexual assaults on the military’s most vulnerable group (female service members under the age of 25). The study identified several high-impact root causes and causal factors associated with military sexual assaults against female service members. Root causes identified included insufficient protections and safeguards, sexual assault prevention and response training that does not sufficiently address perpetrator risk factors or alcohol-related factors, and insufficient focus on identification of prior perpetrators or males with high perpetrator risk factors. Causal factors identified included insufficient leadership/command climate/accountability, insufficient training specificity and emphasis, issues related to movement/red zone/male “center of the universe” behavior, a culture of alcohol misuse, and issues associated with lack of battle buddy/victim protections. The study concluded the military has not provided adequate victim protections or attempted to isolate service members with high perpetrator risk factors. The study also found that the military is promulgating doctrine that does not focus on the root causes and high-impact causal factors identified by this study.
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