According to an annual report released by the Pentagon’s Department of Defense, thirty-eight men in the United States Armed Forces are sexually assaulted every single day.
This statistic is overlooked by citizens, media outlets, and leaders within the military itself. In a country where newspapers are carefully curated to maintain the public’s perception of male soldiers as masculine, to admit to being sexually assaulted is a rebellious act.
The harsh reality for over one-million soldiers is that molestation and rape are common occurrences within military bases. Unbeknownst to the general population, these incidents are rarely reported.
Soldiers have a lot to lose when reporting being sexually assaulted to their superiors. A soldier’s only method of confidentially disclosing a sexual assault without an official investigation is to file a restricted report. Upon doing so, a victimized soldier is unable to receive a military protective order or request a transfer to a different base. They may even continue to have contact with their assailant.
Such policies leave victims with little justice and vulnerable to future assaults. Furthermore, they lessen the likelihood that soldiers will report their perpetrator.
“Rates of military sexual trauma among men who served in the military may be as much as 15 times higher than has been previously reported, largely because of barriers associated with stigma, beliefs in myths about male rape, and feelings of helplessness,” said a study released by the American Psychological Association.
A prevalent stigma surrounding sexual assault is that victims are always female, so when male victims courageously report their assault, they are often met with the generalization that it was horseplay or a response along the lines of “boys will be boys.”
The gender bias regarding sexual assault has prevented male victims from coming forward. Soldiers, specifically, fear shame and dishonor for failing to live up to society’s expectation for them to be dominant figures. Depression, PTSD, and substance abuse are only a few possibilities that accompany the aftermath of internalizing sexual trauma.
The time has come where it is necessary for the American public to vocalize the alarming rate at which male soldiers are being sexually assaulted. The issue has only worsened in recent years, continuing to allow for the United States’ most honorable citizens to suffer in silence.