Military sexual trauma, MST, includes sexual harassment and sexual assault. It is called ‘Rape by Rank’ because often perpetrators are victims’ colleagues, fellow soldier in arms. The suffering that is already a part of any soldiers time spent away from home and loved ones is worsened by complete betrayal within the unity and trust that is supposed to exist within any military unit.
This type of community goes past the reality that every woman and man is someone’s child or loved one. In this type of community every woman and man is a sister or brother. That is the idea that should develop when you train or work in an environment where trusting everyone around you with your life and trusting their life to you is a core part of military life. One victim shared in the article that she and fellow female soldiers would make sure they went to the showers together, which shows the heightened defensive environment created by MST.
Unfortunately this is not just an issue in the US military. ‘Skype scandal reveals a decades-old rape culture in Australia’s military,’ is a recent post on Feministing about the Australian Defense Force’s response to cadets experiencing sexual assault perpetrated by fellow cadets.
According to the article, 14.5% of active members in the military are women and 15% (according to recorded reports) of female veterans experience military sexual assault. It talked about how these women deal with the same negative effects of warfare as men including PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I feel there has been a lot of focus on addressing this when soldiers return from deployment, and there should be just as much attention given to cases of Military sexual trauma. It is a terrible truth that this happens within the armed forces community, but it is even worse that military administration is not actively working against it.
I think it is going to take administrative action for structural change in the environment it creates for our military – but where does that start? What does it take to induce action by those in positions of power to create change?