Sexual assault and harassment have long been issues in the military, affecting both men and women in uniform. Despite efforts to address this issue, the military still struggles to prevent and respond to these incidents effectively. According to the Department of Defense's annual report on sexual assault in the military, there were 8,942 reports of sexual assault in the military across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps in 2022. And those are just the assaults military leadership knows about.

Sexual assault in the military can have devastating effects on victims, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and a loss of trust in leadership. It can also negatively impact unit cohesion and readiness, and undermine the military's overall mission and effectiveness.

Addressing sexual assault in the military

The military has taken steps to address sexual assault, including establishing reporting mechanisms and providing resources for survivors. However, many critics argue that these efforts have not gone far enough and that the military culture still enables sexual misconduct and harassment.

Confidence in the military’s sexual assault response system has plummeted. In 2021, 63% of male troops were confident that their chain of command would “treat them with dignity and respect” after reporting an assault, down from 82% in 2018. For women, their confidence dropped from 66% to 39% during the same time period.

Meghan Myers, Military times

There have been calls for greater accountability and transparency in addressing sexual assault in the military, including implementing stronger prevention and response measures, improving training and education for service members, and holding commanders and perpetrators accountable for their actions.

 A portrait of female soldier in uniform salutes against the background of the American flag.
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The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) could be a crucial step towards creating a more equitable and safe military culture

The ERA could help address sexual assault in the military by guaranteeing equal protections under the law. Currently, the 14th Amendment prohibits discrimination based on race, but not on the basis of gender. By adding the ERA to the Constitution, the law would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender and create a legal foundation for equal protection. This could help to address some of the power imbalances and cultural issues that contribute to sexual assault in the military.

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would guarantee equal rights for all Americans regardless of their gender. Despite being first introduced in 1923 and fulfilling all the requirements set forth in Article V of the Constitution, the ERA has yet to be published due to an arbitrary time limit that was added to its preamble.

The ERA could help reduce the stigma associated with reporting sexual assault

USA military man
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The ERA could also help create cultural changes in the military that prioritize respect and equality for all service members. The military has historically been a male-dominated institution, and many women have reported feeling marginalized or dismissed when they try to report instances of sexual assault or harassment. By enshrining gender equality in the Constitution, the ERA could help to create a cultural shift that would encourage greater respect for women and greater accountability for those who engage in sexual misconduct. This could also help to reduce the stigma associated with reporting sexual assault, making it easier for victims to come forward and receive the support they need.

The ERA could also help strengthen prevention and response measures for sexual assault in the military. By creating a legal framework for gender equality, the ERA could help to establish clearer standards for preventing and addressing sexual assault, as well as accountability mechanisms for those who perpetrate it.

The ERA could create a more equitable and safe military culture

Sexual assault in the military is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach to address effectively. While the ERA is not a panacea, it could be a crucial step towards creating a more equitable and safe military culture. By guaranteeing equal rights under the law, promoting cultural changes that prioritize respect and equality, and strengthening prevention and response measures, the ERA could help create a military culture that values the safety and well-being of all service members.

Information and resources on military sexual assault from some ERA Coalition partners:


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