Why Miss America Cares About Military Sexual Assault So Much?

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Kira Kazantsev, the Miss New York who was named Miss America 2015 on Sunday night, brought the problem about sexual assault in the military forward again.

As part of the competition, the 23-year-old blond beauty named combating sexual assault in the military as the issue about which she would want female U.S. Senators to press their male counterparts.

Saying this, do you know anything about sexual assault in the military? Do you know why the new Miss America cares so much about this problem?

If you don’t, that’s a shame.

Because it’s important for you to know the terrible thing that happens to the defenders of your country.

Sexual assault in the military

Sexual assault in the military is a genuine and serious problem as it continue to occur at alarming rates year after year.

Data shows, there may have been as many as 26,000 instances of “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012. By comparison, 19,300 service members answered similarly in a 2010 study, suggesting the number of attacks has increased by one- third in just two years’ time.

Both men and women are the victims of military sexual violence. Of the 19,300 estimated assaults in 2010, 10,700 victims were men, while 8,600 were women. Of the 26,300 estimated assaults in 2012, 12,100 victims were women and 13,900 were men.

Due to the much smaller number of women in the military -- there are about 200,000 compared to 1.2 million men -- women still bear a greater proportion of these assaults. But the numbers are still striking because attacks against men are so often overlooked.

And while the numbers of assaults skyrocketed 34.5%, the number of reported incidents documented by the DoD remained largely the same, rising only 6 percent from 3,192 to 3,374.

In other words, men and women in the military are enduring sexual assault in greater numbers than last year, but still only a fraction choose to report what happened to them.

The reason why only 9.8% of the victims were reported might be the military adjudication system lacks independence.

Military judges depend on command. Judges won't and can't hear cases until the commander refers them. If the commander decides to go the non-judicial rout, a judge has no role in the case. Furthermore, even if a case does make it to a courts-martial trial, the commander has the authority to overturn or lessen a sentence in the event that the assailant is found guilty.

What can be done?

It’s nice that President Obama “has your back” if you’re assaulted. It’s good that Chuck Hagel is filled with moral outrage.

But no one has stepped up to what it will take to actually prevent the next 26,000 victims.

It's time for the U.S. military to make some efforts to protect our defenders which is wanting in three significant respects:

1.Measure safety, not just assaults.

2. Hold all commanders accountable.

3. Measure frequently at the belly-button level.

Politico calls it a “scandal,” Time calls it an “epidemic,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel describes it as a “scourge,” and President Obama says it’s “dangerous to our national security.”

Now you know what "it" refers to, it's your turn to stand up and protect the defenders of the country, just paying more attention on these issues and encouraging the victims to speak it out.


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