Military sexual assault policy is not as bad as advertised

Julia Pollak:

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect the views of the U.S. Navy.

When I joined the U.S. military in January 2011, a family member asked me: “Aren’t you worried about being raped?” And she wasn’t the only one. Many people cautioned me that I would be entering an institution synonymous with machismo, authoritarianism, and violence.

What I found instead was very different: professionalism, respect, and a strong presence of women in the highest ranks. I also found the most transparent, aggressive, and in-your-face Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program I had ever witnessed.

At bases in Great Lakes, Pensacola, and San Diego, I have received regular and frequent sexual assault prevention training. There have been posters with information about how to report sexual assault in every workspace and bathroom. And forms for reporting sexual assault have been prominently displayed.

Trained male and female Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) and SAPR Victim Advocates (VAs) have made it a point of introducing themselves, sharing their phone numbers, and making themselves available to their fellow sailors. Chaplains and health care providers have similarly signaled their readiness to help.

Since my first days in boot camp, I have also received training regarding the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and even been required to memorize its articles. Article 120 of the UCMJ addresses rape, which is punishable by death. Article 128 addresses other forms of assault.

Under the UCMJ, any military service member or even retiree can be punished for offenses (UCMJ Article 77), including accessories (78) and anyone who conspires in the punishable activity (87). People who attempt to commit an offense and fail to succeed may also be court-martialed (80). And offenders may be punished for any lesser included offenses (79).
This raises questions about the need to change to law and the way these cases are prosecuted.  I think there have been a few high profile cases where commanders have decided that punishment may have been too harsh or unwarranted.   In some of those cases they appear to be correct in that judgement.


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