Sexual assault of men in the military

Newsweek has an important story about the sexual assault of men in the service.

“What happened to Jeloudov is a part of life in the armed forces that hardly anyone talks about: male-on-male sexual assault. In the staunchly traditional military culture, it’s an ugly secret, kept hidden by layers of personal shame and official denial. Last year nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, up from just over 30,000 in 2003. For the victims, the experience is a special kind of hell—a soldier can’t just quit his job to get away from his abusers. But now, as the Pentagon has begun to acknowledge the rampant problem of sexual violence for both genders, men are coming forward in unprecedented numbers, telling their stories and hoping that speaking up will help them, and others, put their lives back together. “We don’t like to think that our men can be victims,” says Kathleen Chard, chief of the posttraumatic-stress unit at the Cincinnati VA. “We don’t want to think that it could happen to us. If a man standing in front of me who is my size, my skill level, who has been raped—what does that mean about me? I can be raped, too.”

In many ways, the story is a familiar one. Service members of both genders tend to be reluctant to report their assaults and find their superior officers are often unresponsive when they do. The military still lacks the procedures to effectively deal with rape within the ranks and veterans struggle to get the help they need for mental and physical health problems stemming from sexual assault.

But there are also some gendered dynamics that make the silence around male-on-male sexual assault even more strictly enforced: from the stigma against gay soldiers because of DADT to our cultural resistance to seeing men as victims to the lack of male models for how to recover from sexual assault.

It’s worth reading the whole thing. I’ll just end by reiterating: We can and must do better by the men and women who serve this country.

New Orleans, LA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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