In 2004, then Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld sent a memorandum to his Under Secretary in which he expressed concerns regarding recent allegations of sexual assault on service members deployed to Iraq and Kuwait. Soon after, the Department of Defense established the Care for Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force. This Task Force came up with a series of recommendations leading to the creation of a single point of accountability for sexual assault, the Joint Task Force for Sexual Assault Prevention (now called the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office). This single point of accountability soon found the problem was larger than initially thought. The military was infested with sexual misconduct and it was greatly affecting its operational capability.
The good news is, when the military identified the problem, they began working to resolve it. If you’re involved with the military at all you know the leadership, from the top down, are taking sexual misconduct seriously. The military moved quickly to create programs for training and education. They set up services for victims and established systems to validate allegations and then swiftly, and mercilessly, punish perpetrators. The military has had some success, but they still have a long way to go.
The bad news is, upon the revelations that sexual assault and harassment were infecting our military we, as a society, went into self-defense mode. We subconsciously denied it’s something we’re capable of. We subconsciously denied it’s something our children, whom we raised, are capable of. We began to consciously investigate it as an evil act caused by some outside force. We wanted to protect our image of society and began creating excuses. “It must be the military’s culture of killing and violence, that’s what caused it!” Or, “The stressors of combat over many years must be causing our service members to act out in horrific ways!” Or, even better, “The horrors our service members witnessed in war caused issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that disorder must be the cause of these heinous acts!”
We as a society denied our way into dangerous territory and it was only a matter of time before our turned, blind eye caught sight of reality.
The reality is the military has to work with what society gives it. Please don’t misunderstand, the military does have an issue with sexual assault and harassment, this article is in no way an argument that it doesn’t. The problem is we thought it was exclusive to the military.
After multiple reports of sexual misconduct in politics, Hollywood, and the corporate world we were faced with acknowledging the truth. There was no war or “culture of violence” to blame anymore.
Thus, the professional world began to implement the same types of education programs and victim services the military did. However, we continue to make excuses. Now we blame “workplace culture” and “climate” as the problem. We attempt to create “positive work environments” in order to address our issues. But we must ask ourselves, are we attacking the root cause of the problem, or are we denying reality?
We can’t allow ourselves to blame “industry culture”. If we propose to have a “culture of sexual misconduct” in fashion, in Washington D.C., in academia, in Hollywood, in sports, in the military, in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, etc., then it’s about time we admit we have a culture of sexual misconduct.
Once we admit our society has a problem, we must attack the problem at the societal level. We’re currently implementing programs to help create “positive work environments”, but the problem with this approach is that environments don’t conduct sexual misconduct, people do. These programs may help stifle sexual misconduct in the workplace, but it’ll rear its ugly head whenever it finds a chance. Sexual misconduct is not caused by “poor workplace culture” or “locker room-like environments”, these simply enable it. In order to prevent and reduce it, we must attack the root of the problem. We must admit we are capable of the evil act, and we must educate ourselves to prevent it.
Luckily, part of the military and corporate world’s approach has been education of employees and correction of improper behavior which has been effective at addressing the root cause of sexual misconduct. Unfortunately, we’re waiting until it’s far too late.
Why do we wait to educate our citizens about proper sexual conduct until they’re entering the professional world? Why are we leaving our children to fend for themselves in the confusing world of sex until they’re earning their first corporate paycheck?
If we want to solve this societal problem we need the public and private education system at the junior high and high school level to replicate the training and education the military and corporate world currently give. Upon graduating into society’s ranks our young adults should be educated on what a positive sexual relationship looks like and how to treat others with dignity and respect. We’re letting bad habits, ignorance, and corrupt thinking survive far too long and the carriers of these vices are embedding themselves within our societal ranks. We need to admit reality and nip sexual misconduct at the bud.
P.S. If you’re looking for a fantastic video to teach yourself or others about consent, check out this video about Tea Consent!