This post links to an article discussing (yay!) the “Invisible War” panel and comments that occurred this past Friday at the End Violence Against Women International Conference 2013 (which I attended! and will post about as soon as I can put that fantastic experience into words).
Seeing an article like this one though, one that focuses on the steps forward the military is making, creates such an encouraging feeling. Too often, one finds negative article after negative article, about how the military has failed its service members, has been part of systemic problems without attempting to fix them, has basically just been a flop in dealing with the sexual assault problems of recent years. To read something like this, an article about how the military is establishing practices for effectively combating both sexual assaults in general and perhaps just as importantly the military sexual assault/harassment culture, well, I think we need to see and read more articles like this.
To enact culture change in any form, in any culture, is extremely difficult. To enact culture change in such a huge organization based on traditions and behavior that have been similar, if not the same, for decades, well, that ain’t no easy fix.
From the article: “The Defense Department works worldwide to prevent and respond to sexual assault, using “five lines of effort,” [Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton] said: prevention, accountability, investigation, victim advocacy and assessment.
Prevention begins with training commanders in best practices and working that effort down to the lowest level, Patton said. Each service branch, he said, has such a program in place.”
What he’s talking about, these 5 areas stated above, are ones that I do firmly believe can do the most good if they’re successfully enacted.
General Patton also mentions victim advocacy. As a future military victim advocate (hopefully!) I am in full support of this. Not only because it means I might have a job, but because advocates are important. As General Patton says, “We’re creating a special victims capability for each of the services,” Patton explained, “and will deliver a distinct group of specially trained professionals such as victim witness liaisons, paralegals, and so forth, all united under our common policy framework of standardized training … to come together and work these important aspects.”
Victim advocacy is a way to standardize and offer reporting options to victims, to motivate reporting and enable greater accountability for offenders, Patton said, noting that military sexual assault victims who want to change their units have had a 99 percent success rate.”
The general said the Defense Department’s efforts to curb sexual assaults will enable culture change. “I believe we can turn this around,” he said. “The [department] is firmly committed to changing the culture.”
Panelist Russell Strand, chief of family advocacy law enforcement training for the Army Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., also weighed in on the importance of culture change.
“I’ve never seen a culture change [happen] so fast, so well and so immediately in the military,” said Strand, a former service member. He added that sexual assault is taken seriously in the military.
“We will do whatever it takes to minimize, and eventually eradicate, this scourge upon our military,” Strand said.
This is the military I want to work with and help support. I want to do my part, serve the troops who protect me and keep me safe, and be part of the change.