By Jennifer Brande, Post 126

The #MeToo movement is the latest word in the American vernacular. With Hollywood, politics and everything in between being touched by the accusations and proven acts of sexual assault and harassment, the one completely glaring missing area is the United States Armed Forces. Occasionally it comes to light, such as the Marines United Facebook group, which went to great lengths to not make the pervasive sexual military culture invisible to the public so that their pristine image of duty, honor and country would not be tarnished. Another example, would be the Army Major General, who was brought back on to Active Duty to be prosecuted for alleged rape multiple times with a minor, decades after the offenses occurred, although that example is not standard and the litmus to see if this will happen in the future is unknown at this time.

The statistics from a 2017 report found that 4.3% of female service members and 0.6% of men have experienced some form of sexual assault. The movement takes on different names in other countries around the world such as “גם אנחנו” which translated into English is #UsToo and was popularized by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. No matter what the hashtag attached to it is, this issue is not being addressed with any sense of definitive certainty.

The armed forces is supposed to be a sacred trust where the words “esprit de corps, brotherhood and battle buddies” are constantly preached, yet even with service members who are specifically trained to work on the prevention of these atrocities, the reporting is slowly coming into a more clear picture. In the last reporting period, military report rates actually rose 9%, which experts agree that number will rise as people find their voice to speak out becomes stronger due to the high visibility of people in the higher ranks or positions of authority being disciplined. The most important part of this report does show that military assaults dropped from 20,300 in 2014 to 14,900, but is this because of actual disciplinary action or people leaving the service (sometimes by way of retirement where they keep their benefits, despite allegations), or by reassignment elsewhere?

The mission of the Jewish War Veterans is defined as: Seeking to prove that Jews do proudly serve and fight in the US Armed Forces. As we fight to keep our 120 year old organization strong and thriving, we need to be doing more to ensure that, with our long history of honorable service, we are at the forefront of making sure that we are a part of that solution, as well as ensuring that if something does happen, we are the people who can be there to support our troops.

What are we, as a service organization planning to do about this epidemic? Have we considered having our own military sexual trauma teams available at every post, meeting or event? Is there a way to recruit more Jewish medical professionals into the armed forces to join our ranks and provide a lifeline for those who will need help, or come forth with a claim in the future? What can we do that no one else is doing to help keep our battle buddy, friends and brothers/sisters safe, while also providing for those who need help and may not be Jewish? We have our national and local conventions, and fight on Capitol Hill for so many important missions and we need to extend this to include military sexual trauma.

There is so much that can be done and the narrative for the #MeToo Movement should read that we lead the way in actions and deeds, just as we have for over 120 years and will do in the future. Be the voice for the silent and fight for those in the shadows.

Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018

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