The Hidden Tragedy of Male Sexual Abuse in the Military
December 31, 2019
|Military sexual trauma victim Ethan Hanson. (Photo: Mary F. Calvert)|
Award-winning photojournalist Mary F. Calvert has spent six years documenting the prevalence of rape in the military and the effects on victims. She began with a focus on female victims but more recently has examined the underreported incidence of sexual assaults on men and the lifelong trauma it can inflict.
Last March, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a retired Air Force combat pilot, disclosed that she had been the victim of multiple sexual assaults by fellow officers, putting the issue of sexual assault in the military on the national agenda. Two months later, a required biannual Department of Defense report found that sexual assault within the ranks had increased by 38 percent over two years. Much less attention has been given to the problem of sexual assault against men in uniform. The report estimated that “20,500 Service members, representing about 13,000 women and 7,500 men, experienced some kind of contact or penetrative sexual assault in 2018, up from approximately 14,900 in 2016.”
Although the military has made efforts to encourage victims to come forward, most assaults are still not reported, and victims who do make reports sometimes still face retaliation. Although men are less likely to be victimized than women, the stigma and psychological trauma can be equally devastating. A DOD report released on Nov. 5 determined that military sexual assault might be more likely to cause PTSD than combat.
|Arizona Sen. Martha McSally. (Photo: Mary F. Calvert)|
“Male victims of sexual assault in [the military] remain in the shadows and are not receiving the care and support they need,” said retired Marine Corps Col. Scott Jensen, the vice chair of Protect Our Defenders, an organization that combats military rape and assault. “When it comes to actual reporting of sexual assaults, it is telling that male victims actually file a report at such a low rate [18 percent] when we know from DOD’s own 2016 survey that 42 percent of overall victims are male. A system that addresses men and women in the same way without sensitivity to the nuances and differences between survivors of different genders is destined to fail. Much more attention to both preventing and responding to male survivors is necessary to ensure that those who are suffering feel comfortable and supported enough to report.