A bright light has been shown on a problem that has lurked in the shadows of our Army for too long. The problem is sexual harassment and sexual assault, and a series of sexual assault cases across the military services has highlighted its magnitude to the American public and our Congress.
Statistics vary, but according to a recent Pentagon survey, about 70 troops a day are assaulted – last year 26,000 service personnel, a 35 percent increase from two years ago. These grim numbers show that previous efforts to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment have failed. This failure impacts unit readiness, cohesion, morale and safety. It also sends a message to victims that they are not valued, cannot contribute fully to mission completion and cannot trust their fellow Soldiers.
Trust goes to the heart of the matter. General Ray Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, recently wrote, “It is time we take on the fight against sexual assault and sexual harassment as our primary mission….Our Army is based on a bedrock of trust – the trust between Soldiers and leaders that we will take care of each other. Recent incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment demonstrate that we have violated that trust. In fact, these acts violate everything our Army stands for. They are contrary to our Army Values and they must not be tolerated.”
We at AUSA endorse General Odierno’s call to arms and will support his efforts to solve this problem. I am sure that an Army that has fought valiantly in two wars for the last twelve years has the wherewithal to win this war as well.