After humiliating acts like telling a raped soldier to report for duty where her attacker was still working there, the Pentagon is attempting to work on its systemic problems in dealing with harassment and sexual assault. The problem starts at the top, these women will only come forward if they know they will not be subject to retaliation by peers and commanding officers. (LA Times):

Victims of sexual assault in the military will be able to speak in confidence with medical professionals and victims’ rights advocates for the first time under a new policy being developed by the Pentagon, officials announced Tuesday.

The change, designed to persuade more victims to come forward, is one of several to be instituted by the Pentagon following sexual assault scandals in Iraq and at the Air Force Academy. The Pentagon plans to establish definitions of sexual assault and sexual harassment, bolster education and training about sexual assault prevention and response, and designate a sexual assault response coordinator at every U.S. military installation in the world.

…But even as the policy changes were made public, victims’ rights groups expressed skepticism that they would work. They said that as long as the Pentagon insisted on policing and investigating itself in allegations of sexual abuse — rather than ceding to independent groups — sexual assault would continue to be pervasive in military culture.

“It will not make a difference,” said Dorothy Mackay, a former Air Force officer who is executive director of Survivors Take Action Against Military Personnel, or STAAMP, a national advocacy group for military sexual assault victims.

…Victims’ advocacy groups say dozens of women serving in Iraq and Kuwait have reported being assaulted, primarily by male military colleagues. Last year, Pentagon figures showed that more than 100 service personnel in the Persian Gulf region — including Iraq and Afghanistan — reported being sexually assaulted. Military officials did not update the figures Tuesday. Nearly 150 women came forward in 2003 with accusations that they had been sexually assaulted by fellow cadets at the Air Force Academy during the previous decade.

Many said that after they reported the assaults, they were punished for infractions such as drinking, or were ignored or ostracized by commanders.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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