Vets demonstrate in #MeTooMilitary protest; DoD expresses support
Close to 50 military veterans, service members, and their supporters gathered outside of the Pentagon for a #MeTooMilitary demonstration today. The protest came just hours after Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony, where attendees dressed in black to show support for survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
“Despite the many efforts made by the military to address sexual assault and harassment, 58 percent of those who report a sexual assault also report being retaliated against and only 4 percent of cases result in conviction,” said Lydia C. Watts, CEO of the Service Women’s Action Network, at Monday’s event. “True progress will be measured when there is a wholesale culture change in which retaliation is not tolerated, survivors feel safe coming forward, and there are swift and fair prosecutions.”
The issue of sexual assault in the media has gained a fair amount of public attention in recent years, including by survivors who say they were failed by the military’s court martial system, as well as the process for reporting sexual assault. “The Invisible War,” a documentary about sexual assault in the military, was released in 2012. The Senate’s Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the issue in 2013, but thus far Congressional efforts to revamp the military justice system for sexual assaults have not come to fruition.
Perhaps as a result of increased media attention to the issue, the number of sexual assaults reported to the military increased by about 15 percent between 2013 and 2016, according to data released by the Department of Defense in November. The U.S. Army had 2,205 incidents reported in fiscal year 2016, the highest number for any branch of the military, compared to 1,043 incidents reported to the Air Force and 825 incidents reported to the Marines.
Military officials appeared to endorse Monday’s protest. “No one should have to tolerate harassment as part of their military service," Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters after the rally, according to the Hill. The outlet also noted that Manning responded affirmatively when asked whether Department of Defense supported the aims of the demonstration.
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