Chelsea Roff: The Epidemic of Rape in the Military (and how to do something about it)

“When I reported my assault, I was told if I wanted to keep my military career I should drop any verbage of rape, take an aspirin, and go to bed.” — Military Rape Survivor

Last month, the Department of Defense issued its Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. The report shed light on the scope and severity of sexual assault in the United States military, exposing truths that are often either denied or ignored by leaders in the armed service. This year’s report revealed that while the incidence of rape in the military is rising (19,000 sexual assaults among Active Duty personnel reported last year), charges, courts-martial and convictions have significantly declined. So while more and more women are being assaulted (or at least, reporting their assault), there is less judicial action being taken to penalize and prevent future crimes.

This month at Intent Blog, we’re spotlighting organizations, movements, and individuals around the world taking action to give back to their community. My intent in writing this blog is twofold: (1) to raise awareness about the alarming dynamics faced by women AND men in the military and (2) to encourage you to support one particular organization taking action to stop it.

Protect Our Defenders (POD) is a human rights organization that “honors, supports and gives voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been raped or sexually assaulted by fellow service members.” This group is actively working to instill systematic changes in military training, investigation and adjudication systems in order to prevent sexual violence and harassment. The culture of the military has created a climate in which victimes are often re-victimized and even blamed in order to protect perpetrators. According to POD, “Our troops protect us and we must protect them.”

The video below gives a human face to the tragic statistics described in the DOD report from last month:

Want to do something about it? Here’s how you can give back:

1. Educate yourself. Check out the information provided Protect Our Defenders’ website, and watch the other videos provided on their YouTube channel.

2. Start a conversation. Share this blog with your friends, and ignite a meaningful discussion around why this is happening, what can be done to prevent/end rape in the military, and what everyday people can do to support these men and women.

3. Contact your legislator. Ask them to support legislation designed to strengthen the legal process for addressing claims sexual assault in the military and improve policies to prevent it.