Sexual Assault in the Military

The following sample Criminal Justice research paper is 6375 words long, in APA format, and written at the undergraduate level. It has been downloaded 566 times and is available for you to use, free of charge.


This study will examine and assess the intensifying issue of sexual assault in the military, and the range of solutions currently being discussed by both civilian and military authorities for effective resolutions. A central part of the issue is the bureaucratic stalling and cumulative inability to stem this source of internal dysfunction within the otherwise disciplined ranks of the military hierarchy. In terms of an active system of prosecution and zero tolerance, the military is simply not taking the necessary steps to proactively intercede, and the results are increasing alienation and distrust. Asking what possible measures can be taken after decades of official stonewalling goes directly to the heart of the problem. With this in mind, the research objective is two-pronged: the detailed study of current prosecutorial measures within the military and the recommendation for a joint civilian/military authority to oversee cases of sexual assault.


Today sexual assault in the separate branches of the military is no longer an annoying concomitant of the recent upsurge in female inductees at all levels of service, but rather an issue of epidemic proportions according to the latest statistics. Because the conflicted nature of the issue calls into question basic pillars of the United States military and its honorable heritage, the nagging issue of sexual assault at all levels of the military is forcing the issue into the news media, and in some important respects compromising the perceptual association to military service and the character of the armed forces in general. In spite of specific incremental measures instituted over the last decade sexual assault cases have not declined, but rather escalated, particularly in the occupation forces stationed overseas. There have been increasing calls for congress to intervene with tough legislation designed to make an impact on the incidence of assault cases reported and to secure a joint military/civilian authority to preside over these cases. The suggestion of joint authority would act to preclude any internal bureaucratic lag in actively prosecuting cases and establishing a visible atmosphere of zero tolerance, the impact of which could be felt at all levels of the service (Hunter, 2007). The issue is more complex than it might at first appear, it involves a prevalent psychology of gender polarity, masculine associations to power, military indoctrination and basic questions of internal legal procedure. It is a daunting and sensitive issue, but also one that demands innovative and effective measure to be brought under control. By examining the methods tested thus far it is possible to make a series of detailed recommendations for a broader and more in-depth authority, imbued with the required prosecutorial powers and resources to address the problem, both in terms of present scale and branch insulation.

Literature Review

The phenomenon of sexual assault in the military has compromised both the authority of military judicial containment measures as well as the public perception of the armed services to a notable degree. This paper examines the intersecting and often overlapping influences that collude to foment the unprecedented incidence of sexual harassment and assault plaguing all the branches of the military, including the National Guard. Drawing upon recent literature explains that the problem is not strictly one of legal or prosecutorial residence. There are behavioral complexities that involve traditional gender roles, sex-classing, aggression training and interstitial sexual tension within an isolated behavioral sphere traditionally associated with only males (Disler 2008 ). Separating the relevant literature in categories of judicial/legal prescriptions and statistics, and anecdotal and behavioral studies bring the issue under a lens that is all-inclusive. In E. Disler’s (2008) landmark study of the underlying factors of gender and language in the military, the author places the behavioral focus on the elements of gender construct in a specifically male-ordained environment and analyzes the inherent tensions that define male/female gender roles.

Mic Hunter (2007) examined the issue from both inside and outside of the military channels, focusing on the defensive and cult-like demeanor of military channels. The author discovered that an attitude of apathy for sexual abuse victims was common within all of the branches. The author makes note of the incorporation and distortion of male sexual aggression in military aggression-training as a notable catalyst for sexual battery in the armed forces. Ancillary focus is provided by authors Burke & Major (2014), Lawhorne-Scott, et al (2014), Salazer-Torreon ( 2013 ), Spahr-Nelson (2002), Wells, (2011). Drawing upon both personal accounts of sexual assault cases in the military and statistical analyses that cross-reference past decades the issue becomes one of tacit tolerance and official apathy. The literature notes the initial reluctance for the military to adopt policies of gender inclusion at all levels, Sanford-Jenson (2012), and theorizes that rising incidence of sexual assault reflects a systematic tolerance or gender backlash associated with traditional perceptions of the armed forces as a male dominion.

Suris & Smith (2011) reach similar conclusions in their clinical study of the culture of violence in the military and the subsequent prevalence of sexual assault. In addition, Dunn ( 2013) and Woodham (2013) provide relevant and thoughtful background for the statistical rise in sexual assault cases within the last several years. Calls for a massive re-examination of policies for containment and prosecution have increased proportionally with the statistics for sexual battery and assault, Cooper (2014), Stimson (2013). Additionally relevant recent articles highlight the need for external judicial authority where the military channels are weak or non-compliant.

Problem Statement

With an upsurge in gender integration at all levels of military service, subsequently, there has been a notable rise in cases of sexual harassment and assault. This phenomenon demands a study of the unique character of the military organizational structure, not merely the chain of command or the dispensation of authority, but the accompanying psychology that impacts gender. Perhaps no other organization reinforces the male stereotypes of aggression and physical superiority more than the military (Hunter 2007). This is hardly accidental, but rather part of the psychological training that conflates common ideas of masculine domination with intense combat training and the necessary aggression that is programmed into each male. Add to this the prevalent gender identities and the conscious separation of gender common to the civilian sphere, and the inherent sexual tension that is elevated in a strict military environment. The design is almost an ideal recipe for sexual assault because of the colliding influences in play.

Certainly, there is some exaggerated level of gender domination that accompanies aggression training to the extent that sexual aggression is impacted along with combat aggression. Gender integration in civilian areas once dominated by males entailed issues of sexual harassment and aggression however the military is different in several important respects. No other organization is so ritualistically associated with male gender distinctions and otherwise disposable stereotypes cemented through popular culture. Established gender roles play a significant part in the issue of military sexual assault to the extent that military training heightens aggression in the same sense that it elevates gender distinction. The cumulative effect may well turn on a common instinct of male domination over the female that is isolated in a military context (Burke & Major 2014). Gender identity is an embedded psychology that operates within otherwise acceptable parameters in the civilian sphere however isolating gender identity in an environment where aggression response is the inculcated pattern the dynamics that animate gender language and specific behavior in a civilian context are radically altered.

Understanding critical gender dynamics is pivotal to following and even anticipating the pattern of sexual aggression in the military. For these reasons, the response from military authorities has been not only woefully inadequate but clearly bewildered. The perception that there exists an obvious lack of understanding is communicated in the judicial positioning of the military bureaucracy and the rhetoric of palliatives. Until the specific psychological dimensions of the issue are raised and explored the containment strategies will not be effective. As the armed forces gradually obliged the increasing role of women in armies and once male-dominated vocations, the branches began to assimilate increasing numbers of females at all levels (Spahr-Nelson 2002). However, the necessary behavioral adjustments to this unprecedented change were completely missing. It was almost as if there existed a pretense of harmony where long-established gender collisions were inexorable. The roles of sex-class are positioned in a confrontational medium: a specifically male-dominated world in which the female assumes an ancillary and often supervisory role that is interpreted in purely sexual terms. The navigational dynamics are both confused and intensified. The male cannot unlearn or alter the experience of sexual tension in an environment free of civilian ritual. The aggression-response that is an objective of military training bleeds into gender interaction, blurring the lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Perhaps the most daunting psychological contrast between civilian culture and military culture is the radical reversal of ideas of independence and collectivism. In civilian life autonomy and independence are highly lauded ideals however in military culture these ideals would prove anathema to the collectivist dynamic inculcated from top to bottom ( Suris & Smith 2011 ). This Fraternal dynamic exerts behavioral fealty which cannot admit females because of the precise traditional routing of the gender roles established empirically. Throughout induction and basic training the value of the collectivist model is stressed not only as a psychological construct but a behavioral one as well to the extent that activities are rigidly collectivist. At no point in training or military exercise does the cultural psychology stress or acknowledge the value of independence, in either thought or action. Collectivism also positively impacts morale and military unity to the extent that deviation is inadmissible in the collective. The injection of female recruits into this established psychology is experienced as both an irregularity and an internal threat to a perceived order that classifies male and female in radically different values.

In treating the military as a distinct culture with a unique set of imperatives, language, and customs it becomes easier to diagnose the dissonant aspects that fall out of alignment with the otherwise rigid stresses. Boys and men feel a cultivated sense of security in the controlled environment of a collectivist model, ideas of masculinity are conformed to the quotations of duty and honor, and the sharp physical prowess associated with male domination. Because this psychology is inexorably attached to gender dualism, the opposing value is proportionally elevated (Salazar-Torreon 2013). In this respect, the presence of females confuses the model to the extent that there are instinctual contradictions that are commonly interpreted in purely sexual terms. Put in another way, the traditional behavioral model in military culture amounts to the irreducible underpinning of sexual assault and sexual trauma currently registered in all branches of the military. This also explains the administrative reluctance to take decisive proactive measures to stem the tide of sexual abuse, because it would indict a system of overt male domination and aggression that cannot admit structural alteration at any level. The administrative fear that stiff punishments might send confusing training signals is certainly a consideration.

In 2004 congress adopted HR 3936: The Military Sexual Trauma Counseling Act of 2004. Among the provisions in the legislation are the behavioral definitions of military sexual trauma MST. These definitions established the clinical criterion with which the Veterans Administration diagnose and treat trauma that is a direct result of sexual battery. The prevalence of MST contains areas of ambiguity based upon accepted definitions that may fall short in terms of aggression and conformity. In this respect because of a number of variables—underreporting, definitional truncation—the exact figures for MST are daunting however estimates place the incidence as high as 40% in recent studies (Suris & Lind 2008). The problem with the coherent legal definition is that other pronounced areas of sexual trauma which may involve prolonged harassment or threat of sexual assault are trivialized or unrepresented in the official definitions. MST is also heavily linked to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In recent years there has been a spike in reported sexual assault in military academies as well as conventional active military service. This upsurge could indicate a greater willingness to pursue legal action against the offenders, or simply mark an unexplained rise in sexual aggression in both active service and training facilities. The basic dilemma is that adopting a set of laws and penalties designed to punish the offenders without taking into consideration the overarching military culture that contributes to these conditions is somewhat self-attenuated. The tacit emphasis accorded to insulating the prevalent culture from any corrective analysis goes right to the heart of the issue. The process of enacting corrective legislation while ignoring the architecture of cause and effect amounts to a self-contradicting exercise. So long as the culture remains insulated and resistant to behavioral ameliorations the problem will not subside, and the process for enacting punishment will become a hopeless cycle of procedural futility (Cooper 2014). Drafting legal procedures that fail to address the structural flaws are worthless.

The critical questions pertaining to stiffer penalties for sexual assault in the military, or convening a joint military/civilian authority to handle the issue again dismisses the cultural relevance tied to the problem. While it may be conceivable that a joint civilian/military arm imbued with revised prosecutorial powers could impact the statistics, combined with enhanced awareness campaigns and seminars at every level of the military, the central issue of cultural collusion remains unaddressed. Once the decision was made to revise gender participation at previously barred levels of military service-specific adjustments were demanded in the presiding male culture. Taking the first step without compensating for the other was a recipe for conflict, as the statistics clearly indicate. The traditional model remained intact even while the gender exclusivity was radically revised (Burke & Major 2014). The perception of the model as sacrosanct is a relic of tradition that suffers immutability. If the presiding culture could not be altered in significant ways to allow for female inductees the process of assimilating women should not have proceeded.

The impact of this pronounced gender schism is compromised morale, widespread suspicion and a lingering sense of disunity that could potentially undermine combat security and protocols. Addressing the critical question of morale is consistent with a necessary analysis of the root causes. Considering the emphasis placed upon morale and unity the problem has notable elements of discord that have traditionally been addressed within a homogenous gender environment. Here is the navigational dilemma for today’s military: the contextualization of morale and unity is radically altered in terms of gender dynamics, yet the procedural measures are part of an outdated model (Woodham 2013). Unfortunately, the debate turns only on questions of punishment modalities and not prevention in terms of essential adjustment to a traditional behavioral model.

A significant problem is that at the higher levels of the military chain commanders have the powers to override or reverse convictions through the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In a number of recent high-profile cases, commanders reversed a number of key convictions, which eventually led Congress to make changes in the code that limited the powers of commanders. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand played a central role in proposing more stringent legislation, calling for a break in the chain of command structure that undermined prosecution. The Pentagon fiercely opposed Gillibrand’s legislative activism on behalf of female victims who were coming forward at increased rates. Gillibrand’s legislation came up five votes short of passage (Bassett 2014). Instead, a considerably less divisive bill was passed that among other considerations gave victims the choice between a civilian or military trial and limited the ‘good soldier’ appeal often associated with sex crimes.

Gillibrand’s initiative was admirable if also a bit naïve. By introducing tough legislation designed to take the authority for prosecuting sexual assault away from heavily biased commanders and giving it exclusively to independent military lawyers, she encountered a hostile response from Pentagon officials who could influence congress and the senate. The reluctance to permit any external authority into the issue was symbolic of the fraternal character of the military. Proponents of Gillibrand’s bill asserted that some 90% of cases are unreported because of the culture of ascent tied to commanders and the often murky procedural sequence at the internal levels. The issue highlights the problem of organizational self-policing and hostility to external authority (Bassett 2014). Additionally, even if Gillibrand’s bill had been adopted the conclusion that the internal structure would take compensatory measures was understood. Without a comprehensive structural change in the dominant gender dynamics and traditional model the bill would have only succeeded in fomenting resistance.

In 2012, out of an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults, less than 4,000 were reported. These are appalling and unacceptable numbers, yet the organizational will to fully confront the problem seems mired in the same defensive systemic apathy and stalling as earlier decades. Those in the Pentagon system and congress who oppose an external judiciary presence argue that stripping the commanders of their intercessional authority will only succeed in making the problem worse. The logic here is almost paradoxical: a system of command that is under criticism for ignoring abuse statistics that would foment crisis intervention in any comparable organization is defended on the grounds that outside intervention cannot be tolerated because it can only make matters worse. This is a form of official obscurantism that demands swift congressional action and a set of dramatic revisions to the existing policy (Stimson 2013).

Although there have been recommendations to create a victims’ council within the military branches that would be in a position to offer options and alternatives including legal counseling and crisis intervention, the initiative is not nearly enough when considering the scale of the problem. Clearly, there is a climate of fear and command intimidation in pursuing sexual assault charges, especially against a superior officer. Fear of retaliation is a central issue in underreported cases of sexual assault (Dunn 2013). Additional reforms have made certain compensations in the area of retaliation against accusers, requiring intervention by the Inspector General. Ironically House Speaker John Boehner expressed satisfaction with the rejection of the Gillibrand bill, declaring that the reforms that have been passed were more than sufficient. Boehner’s obvious level of obscurantism is symptomatic of the difficulty in even approaching the issue in terms of revised or innovative strategies to impact the runaway statistics for assault. The conclusion is unambiguous: Military administrators have demonstrated apathy and evasion toward any containment measures, therefore making external authority the last option.

Given the reaction to the Gillibrand proposal to take prosecution authority out of the chain of command the defensive posturing goes far beyond the corridors of the Pentagon, and into the congress and senate. The deliberate stalling and evasion at the highest levels of government to an issue that is reaching absolute crisis proportions has to be understood in the context of organizational logic and containment. It is difficult to imagine a more pressing demand for action, considering even the recent upsurge in assault statistics, and yet the counter-forces within military culture are more entrenched and hostile. The Gillibrand bill might have had some initial impact on the statistical spike in cases however it is hardly speculative to conclude that it would not have been nearly enough to stem the tide of cases or the official tolerance that accompanies these cases (Klimas 2013). This is an important point to make with regard to proposals for intervention: a bill that merely shifted judicial authority from the chain of command after decades of tacit consent to rising sexual assault was struck down. In other words, a moderate measure that was not adequate to address or contain the crisis was rejected.

The obvious conclusion is that there is a significant and politically entrenched front posing an enormous legislative obstacle to substantive action. The precise level of the resistance should correctly determine the necessary action to confront the problem both rhetorically and in prescriptive legal terms. The Gillibrand bill merely vindicated the suspicion that the problem was not only guarded within military channels but that this attitude extended into the legislative branches of government. Clearly radical prescriptions are demanded, and yet the possibility for instituting these prescriptions appears more doubtful. The significance of the fate of the Gillibrand bill is that it should correctly determine the strategies undertaken to confront this issue in the near future (Bassett 2014). Because the military is so venerated in American culture, the internal deterioration cannot admit an outside force that requires sufficient legislative authority to make the necessary recommendations and changes in the entire structure of the organization and implement radical changes in the prevalent psychology of gender awareness and aggression training. In terms of opposing forces, the current military environment is in chaos, if left unchecked the problem will impact recruitment, morale, combat integrity, internal cohesion and operational performance.

Currently, there are only two options available for reporting sexual assault in the military: the first option permits a confidential disclosure to select individuals, and immediate access to medical treatment and or counseling based upon the level of trauma. This particular option treats the victim with an almost palpable secrecy that seems to be a function as official dismissal. Although the victim is entitled to necessary medical attention and trauma counseling there are no guarantees of protection or due process. The second option permits an official investigation however hardly guarantees effective measures against the offender or prosecutorial satisfaction for the victim. To this extent, both options appear to be nothing more than window dressing, an empty protocol that fulfills the necessary appearance of punitive action. The reality is that the victims of military sexual assault find themselves in a limbo of administrative consent to crimes that would constitute felony-level offenses in civilian life. As far back as 2004, the U.S. Army (a profession of arms) convened a task-force to explore the feasibility of sexual assault reporting (Wells 2011). What this task force discovered was that even when the reporting channels were utilized, a conscious series of tacit obstacles were encountered at each level of the process. Clear factors were identified that impeded the reporting process or stalled or terminated any subsequent investigation. The fraternal nature of the chain of the command contained tacit networks of communication and authority peddling that effectively stalled even the most aggressive investigation of cases of assault.

Any serious evaluation of the crisis or the options for effective containment would use the Gillibrand bill as a starting point and construct a more comprehensive and aggressive legislative campaign. Understanding the internecine nature of the resistance entails a much broader and more detailed set of legislative deductions and recommendations. Concluding that the current channels and address mechanisms for reporting sexual assault are completely inadequate demands a revised compass for approaching the issue from both a legislative perspective and a psychological perspective. Even the weak prevention programs that have been tried have failed however the administrative tolerance for self-policing in any substantial way remains static. It would appear that a consciousness of the issue is not necessarily the stumbling block, but rather the organizational paranoia that any external legislation with teeth could potentially do more harm than good (Suris & Smith 2011). That the internal fiber of command would lose credibility among the enlisted personnel, and this loss of authority could compromise discipline at all levels in a kind of domino effect. However, the statistics themselves would already indicate a substantial loss of authority at the command level.

Additional data suggests that even when assault trauma is conceded in the chain of command, women who are treated for PTSD receive a conspicuously lower quality of care than their male counterparts. The perceived gender inequality operates at all levels of the military and complicates the process of establishing a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault. The internalized mixed-messaging confounds any containment measures that fall short of a thorough investigative process followed up by court-martial and sentencing. The sheer volume of assault cases would exceed the investigative capacities of the Inspector General’s office even under the best of intentions (Disler 2008). Add to this the intimidation factor for reporting sexual assault in an environment that adheres to a tacit male dominance.

Recommendations/Course of Action

A thorough review and assessment of all the factors posing an obstacle to comprehensive prosecutorial reforms in cases of rape and sexual assault in the military would conclude that the process is decidedly an uphill battle (Blinder & Oppel 2014). The Gillibrand bill was interpreted as an unwelcome violation of the military channels of due process and merely served to entrench the opposition to any external judicial authority. This reaction would oblige reform advocates to exercise considerably more pressure at the legislative levels to effect change in administrative policy. The problem has reached the point where it is well beyond the containment measures of the individual branches, irrespective of the ‘look the other way’ attitudes that permeate the command structures. Therefore relying on an internal solution to the problem is futile. The decision to turn the matter to civilian authorities would call into question the military capacity for self-policing and bring the organization under mounting scrutiny and suspicion. This would undermine the basic transmission of the values of sharp discipline that are touted by those who are striving to cover up the issue.

Where the Gillibrand bill was a stinging indictment of decades of foot-dragging and official negligence, any additional strategies to enact long-overdue reforms would first need to calculate the resistance factors at both legislative and military administrative levels. The internal disconnect between awareness of the crisis and administrative procrastination embedded in containment paranoia has constructed an impasse that may appear hopeless in terms of a direct course of action to facilitate critical changes in the existing policy. The Department of Defense publishes an annual report on the subject of sexual assault in the military which contains a set of assessments and recommendations that would ideally form the basis for any initiative to establish a civilian judicial authority to confront the issue and exact substantive changes. Among the contents are key proposals such as prioritization of an enhanced climate of victim confidence in reporting cases of sexual assault, a more reliable and effective process for investigation, and improved areas of accountability. For the most part, the report stresses preventative measures that have been tested incrementally and failed to stem the spike in cases. What the report confirms is that the DOD is aware of the magnitude of the problem as well as the structural obscurantism that accompanies it, yet the detailing of a comprehensive solution, beyond the same enhancement rhetoric, is entirely missing in the report.

This administrative deadlock is the essential catalyst for a civilian judicial task-force equipped with the necessary subpoena powers and the resources to confront a problem that has grown to extraordinary dimensions simply due to prolonged neglect. The task-force would need access to military records, reporting channels, commanding officers, and investigative resources within the military. Such access would demand unprecedented civilian judicial authority over a sphere where traditional self-policing is the established norm. A proposed sub-level of the task-force would be the creation of a special victims’ counsel, which could collect and transmit vital information to the prosecutorial wing of the task-force. Cooperation from the command structure would be secured through autonomous subpoena power irrespective of rank or title. Only by compensating for resistance at the highest levels of the military command structure can the task-force be expected to exact substantial results. Both the investigative and judicial arms of the task-force would require a formidable personnel contingent. The scale of the problem would, therefore, set the personnel requirements if the task-force is to be successfully implemented. Once clear of the administrative entanglements of the chain of command the task-force would operate with impunity and begin to make an impact in terms of prosecution and sentencing. Victim testimony and due-process would assume the same priorities found in the civilian courts.

Allowing for a trial period of prosecution benchmarks, the visibility of the independent authority would transmit a message of zero tolerance and swift punitive action throughout the military structures. The imposition of stiffer sentences would be calculated to make a specific impact on the runaway statistics for assault. The authority would also be subject to a number of calculated assessments as to the effectiveness of its sanction. While the civilian judicial authority would not amount to a panacea, there is no doubt that it could dramatically reduce the incidence of sexual assault simply through a series of high-profile prosecutions and the visible transmission of a new zero-tolerance policy implemented at all levels of the military. Because of the inherent deficiencies of prevention programs the introduction of a strict civil authority with blanket authority would revise the standard empty protocols for handling sexual assault.

A radical revision of existing lethargic guidelines for addressing victim complaints against superior officers would supplant the collective immunity accorded officers down the chain of command. The significance of stripping commanders of the authority to root out and punish offenders amounts to a symbolic indictment of the entire military structure to the extent that it cannot administer its own internal dysfunction. This amounts to a direct contradiction of the values of military authority over its personnel. The cumulative effect of the judicial task-force would amount to a structural compromise of the military system as a self-sustaining entity built upon the values of lockstep adherence to discipline (Disler 2008). Given enough time the judicial task-force has the potential to eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the incidence of sexual assault however it is difficult to predict exactly what level of impact the force might exact. Reliance on revised sentencing and enhanced visibility would be calculated to transmit a shock-effect that would signal a radical change in policy. As with any comparable organizational targeting, there would be a set of predictable aftershocks.

Under the existing system that the Gillibrand bill challenged, commanders alone are charged with the responsibility for dispensation of criminal assault charges against individuals under their command, as well as the calculated necessity for court marshal. The opposing argument is rooted in reactionary logic: by stripping the commander of the ability to impose punishment the process would undermine the operation of the entire command structure. This appeal was at the center of the failed Gillibrand initiative however the counter-argument would touch upon the fact that 26,000 cases of assault effectively undermine the putative authority of the command structure in every respect (Allard 2012). The command structure was granted more than an adequate window for an internal review of the issue and the adoption of a set of prescriptive remedies, the result was a dramatic spike in assault cases that obliges the congressional sanction and system-wide intervention of an external civilian authority.

Additionally, there is the possibility that the problem is so culturally embedded that even the introduction of an external authority with vast prosecutorial powers cannot impact the runaway statistics. In any event, the time has passed in which there should be any internal opposition to an outside judicial authority. The crisis-strategy deserves to be tested under conditions that have been allowed to fester and entrench for far too long. Opposition in congress is certainly another vital area of concern for any prescriptive remedy. The reactionary contingent in Congress that voted against the Gillibrand proposal would just as surely oppose a stronger set of measures along the lines of what is recommended here. However the necessity of building upon the symbolic nature of the Gillibrand bill is beyond debate, the crisis will only worsen as a result of the institutional neglect that has cultivated it for decades. Fraternity is preferred psychology that typically manifests reactionary characteristics to criticism. In assessing the military command structure the fraternal psychology is close to impenetrable.

A particularly telling indicator of the opposing perspective is expressed in the comments of Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO): “The best way to protect victims and realize more aggressive and successful prosecutions is by keeping the chain of command in the process at the beginning of a criminal proceeding…there’s no substitute for a commander who does it right” ( Stimson 2013). Aside from an obvious disconnect with the hard statistics, or the conclusion that there is a notable absence of commanders who “do it right”, the Senator expresses the same reactionary delusion that is indicative of the command structure whose consent permitted the statistics to climb to the appalling levels of the present. In this respect, a formidable part of the challenge is not only the introduction of an external judicial authority but the calculated extremism of attitudes like the Senator. To the extent that these opposing forces inject their voices as obstacles to reforms, they make themselves accomplices as much as the commanders who do nothing in the face of unacceptable or epidemic incidence of sexual assault at both enlisted and officer levels.

For over half a century Congress has periodically modified and adjusted the rules for military justice under the guiding principle that military justice is synonymous with the charter of the military system as a whole. Where there is a breach or schism in this basic equation the system is compromised to an uncertain degree. The introduction of an external authority would also serve to undermine the essential function of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, which is charged with the dispensation of internal criminal cases and possible court marshal. However, the relative laxity and complicity of (JAG) is another component of the overall problem of effective self-policing at all relevant levels of the military. Although there are clear parallels between the military justice system and the civilian justice system, there are also points of dramatic departure insomuch as military justice is considerably more fraternal and restricted.

Tables and Statistics

The compelling impact of the increasing numbers of sexual assault cases is proportional to the systemic degree of tolerance within the military command structure. A tacit transmission of organizational consent is certainly a significant part of the increasing statistics which strongly suggest that not only are current safeguards and measures to contain sexual assault completely inadequate, they also clearly indicate patterns of consent as the highest levels of the command. In spite of a series of well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective preventative remedies for sexual assault, prevention mentoring and modified counseling options, the problem has enveloped a once integrated system of discipline and severely compromised the notions of ‘honor and duty’ that have traditionally characterized military service in the United States Armed Forces. The impact can be felt not only in terms of weakened morale and gender stratification within the organization but additionally falling recruitment numbers and a deteriorating public perception. The price of inaction has created the present epidemic and facilitated dramatic remedies.


The once timely debate between the two proposed courses of action: internal reforms or an external interventionist authority no longer carries a balanced appeal. While this debate has progressed the issue has grown by leaps and bounds until the point where it is now jeopardizing the basic functions of the military structure and the critical cohesion that makes it an efficient tool. Until the efforts are adequately marshaled in congress to pass key legislation for revised impact strategies at the command levels of the military the problem could potentially jeopardize national security to the extent that a unified and cohesive armed force is one of the central pillars of democratic societies. A groundswell of principled opposition to the status quo could induce congress to take substantive action that incorporates the proposals of the Gillibrand bill and devises an effective set of counter-measures to the systemic dysfunction of gender-integrated armed forces.

In applying organizational reforms to the military structure it is critical to understand exactly how military culture differs in important respects from other organizational corporate cultures. Traditional codes of honor and duty have lapsed into cynicism and an opportunistic pattern of abuse. Irreducible considerations of the male-dominant psychology that impacts the armed forces at every operational level should be taken into account in the search for solutions to the problem. In essence, the issue has reached critical mass, a point where ignoring it any further invites catastrophe. A re-introduction of an amended Gillibrand bill, with additional recommendations for an external judicial authority is now required. With key backing in congress and the senate, the bill could pass, and the process of re-organizing the command structure responsible for the crisis could finally proceed.


Allard, C. B. (2012). Military sexual trauma: current knowledge and future directions. London: Routledge.

Bassett, L. (2014) Gillibrand’s Military Sexual Assault Reform Fails in Senate.

Blinder, A., & Oppel, R (2014) How a Sexual Assault Case Foundered.

Burke, R. J. (2014). Gender in organizations: are men allies or adversaries to women's career advancement?. Northampton: Edward Elgar Pub.

Carpenter, M. (2014) Event Highlights Sex Abuse Crisis in Military.

Cooper, E. (2014) The Military and Sexual Assault.

Disler, E. A. (2008). Language and gender in the military honorifics, narrative and ideology in Air Force talk. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.

Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (2012)

Dunn, S. (2013) Silenced No More The Courage of a Soldier - Life After Military Sexual Trauma.. ny: author house.

Hunter, M. (2007). Honor betrayed: sexual abuse in America's military. Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books.

Klimas, J. (2013) Political Quagmire Stymies Military Assault Solutions.

Laird, L. ( 2013) Military Lawyers Confront Changes as Sexual Assault Becomes Big News.>magazine>julyissue.

Nelson, T. S. (2012). For Love of Country Confronting Rape and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Military. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

O’Toole, M. (2013) Military Sexual Abuse Epidemic as DOD fails Females.

Scott, C. (2014). Sexual assault in the military: a guide for victims and families.. S.l.: Rowman & Littlefield.

Stimson, C. (2013) Sexual Assault in the Military/article

Suris, A. M., & Smith, J. C. (2011) Sexual Assault in the Military. Guilford Press. New York.

Torreon, B. S. (2013). Military sexual assault chronology of activity in Congress and related resources. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.

Wells, M (2011) Military Sexual Trauma, 1st edition. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform.

Woodham, S. (2013). Sexual assault in the military: analysis, response, and resources. NY: Nova Science Pub Inc.