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Sexual Assault and the Military

July 30, 2013

Catharsis Productions is proud to serve alongside our colleagues in the military who work diligently every day in the fight to end sexual assault, both within the ranks and in society at large. In recent months, troubling events, a few high profile crimes and the Oscar-nominated film The Invisible War have spurred impassioned responses and created robust public conversation surrounding the military’s role in combating sexual assault. Here are a few thoughts we’d like to add to the conversation:

*We believe that the military’s challenges in combating rape exist within the context of our entire nation’s challenge in combating rape. Victim-blaming attitudes, critical absences of empathy, and ignorance to the corrosive impact of dehumanizing language are all problems facing our entire culture, not just our military. The military’s fight to battle these issues, all of which contribute to the tolerance of violence, leniency for perpetrators, and apathetic bystander response to dangerous circumstances which often end in sexual violence, exists within the context of the greater American fight to battle these issues.

*We believe that every branch of the United States military is committed to creating an internal culture where every serviceperson knows sexual assault is unacceptable, as evidenced through both the statements of its leadership and collaborations with Catharsis and other prevention organizations to educate and inspire servicemen and servicewomen to create positive cultural change. While both anecdotal and research data indicate we still have much work left to do in this fight, the suggestion some recently have made that the military is “doing nothing” to combat sexual violence is untrue.

*We believe there is room under the rape-fighting umbrella for different perspectives and philosophies on how best to combat this epidemic. While we may disagree with certain tactics occasionally employed in anti-rape education, even some of those occasionally employed by our educational partners, we embrace as allies all those committed to combating sexual assault or drawing awareness to it as a societal problem, whether they be civic institutions, advocacy organizations, members of the media, workers in the movement or concerned, proactive citizens.

*While ultimately Catharsis is only responsible for the content we create and teach, we applaud the military’s efforts to create a robust education and marketing strategy around a proper understanding of consent. We know from personal experience that the military educates its soldiers with live speakers, multimedia briefings, brochures, posters and television commercials, and we applaud this multi-tiered strategy. The suggestion, as some recently have made, that any one of the individual approaches therein represents the military’s entire approach to combating sexual violence is irresponsible and untrue.

*We believe that while the recent arrests of multiple military personnel who had previously been associated with sexual assault prevention efforts are deeply, deeply troubling, the heinous misdeeds of these perpetrators do not undo the superlative work being done by military advocates all over the world. We have had the good fortune to work with countless civilian and uniformed personnel who consistently demonstrate passion, creativity and commitment in the daily fight to end sexual violence. The criminal activity of a few should not cast a negative light on the tremendous work these allies perform consistently and often without public recognition.

*We believe that some of the information contained within the recent FY2012 DoD SAPRO Annual Report on Sexual Assault is troubling. However, we are encouraged by the following survey data within the report:

— Compared to 2006, 11% more women and 8% more men more indicated they would “feel free to report sexual assault without reprisal”
— 88% of women and 94% of men indicated their leadership “does well to make clear sexual assault has no place in the military”
— 94% of male soldiers reported that, as a result of sexual assault prevention – title ix sexual harassment and discrimination training, they “understood what constituted sexual assault”, and 94% reported that it “provided a good understanding of what actions are considered sexual assault” (both increases since 2010)

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