Three Articles about Male Sexual Assault in the Military

Male on male sexual assault in the military: Overlooked and hard to fix, investigation finds

By Dan Lamothe March 20

Here’s a scenario: A male U.S. service member is hanging out with others from his unit at a barbecue when he realizes he has had too much alcohol to drink. He’s taken back to his barracks to sleep it off, but wakes up several hours later to be “teabagged” — with another man putting his scrotum on his face.

That notional situation was sketched out by officials with the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, in survey interviews with 122 American male service members across the country. Forty-eight of them — more than a third — said they have heard about something like that happening, the GAO said in investigative findings released Thursday. Thirty-four service members — more than a quarter — interviewed believed the scenario happens occasionally (21), sometimes (nine) or regularly (four), the new GAO report said.

The new report adds to the growing conversation about sexual assault in the military, which senior military officials and the White House have both said repeatedly needs to addressed. But the GAO focused this time on an angle that is less commonly discussed: sexual assaults by men on men.

The investigation found that while the Defense Department has made a number of changes in an attempt to reduce sexual assault in the military, the number of people who report sexual assault is about 40 percent for women, and 13 percent for men. The statistics don’t apply only to rape, but to a variety of activities that can be considered hazing, in which someone is initiated into a group through humiliation or abuse.

GAO investigators who traveled to Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.; Fort Bliss, Tex.; and Norfolk Naval Base, Va.; found that although both hazing and sexual assault are against the law in the military, both continue to occur, and some of the incidents should be considered both.

“For example, victim advocates and prosecutors at one installation described a series of escalating incidents that began with hitting the victim in the crotch, then throwing objects at the victim’s crotch, and ultimately then saying the hazing would stop if the victim performed oral sex on the assailants,” the report said. “These service officials added that training on hazing-type activities and their relationship to sexual assault would be particularly beneficial to males in that it might lead to increased reporting and fewer inappropriate incidents. However, they stated that they have not seen this addressed in the training.”

Of the 122 men interviewed by the GAO, 87 said they believe other male service members may have reservations about reporting unwanted sexual contact. The most common reason was fear of being judged, especially if it led to questions about their masculinity or sexual orientation, the GAO said.

“For example, one male victim said that military culture encourages men to see themselves as dominant males and leaders, and that being sexually assaulted makes you feel like you are less than a man, helpless and weak, and stated that he had previously seen other sexual assault victims be treated badly after reporting an assault,” the report said.

GQ magazine took on the issue in a long-form article last year that drew widespread attention. In most cases, the male victims they interviewed said they didn’t report attacks because of an overriding sense of shame about what had occurred.

The GAO raised questions about whether altering sexual assault training in the military — and consequently, the conversation about sexual assault — would help.

Sexual assault prevention officials in the military acknowledge that they focus the majority of their programs on women because the overwhelming majority of those filing reports are female and they are at greater risk of being attacked, the GAO said.

But changes are coming. Last spring, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed the services to put in place programs to encourage male sexual assault victims to seek care. The Marine Corps hosted an inter-service meeting to discuss the problem in September, and the services provided plans to address it to the Pentagon in January. The Defense Department is currently reviewing them, the GAO said.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.

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Experts: Males Also Are Victims of Sexual Assault

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

TYSON’S CORNER, Va., February 20, 2015 — Experts urged Army leaders to reach out to male victims of sexual assault, noting people should not view sexual violence as a crime perpetrated exclusively against women.

Jim Hopper, a psychologist and researcher, and Russell Strand, a retired Criminal Investigative Service special agent, spoke about an aspect of sexual violence not often discussed: sexual assaults on men.

Hopper and Strand spoke at the Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program Summit held here yesterday.

The number of males sexually assaulted in the military is sobering, the experts said.

“[About] 10,800 men are sexually assaulted every year in the military,” Strand said. “[Roughly] 8,000 women are assaulted.”

Few military males report being victims of sexual assault, he said. Only 1,134 men reported attacks -- roughly 13 percent of those attacked. With women, 39 percent reported attacks.

Reluctance in Reporting Assaults

So about 87 percent of men attacked are not reporting it and “these are real men in real pain,” Hopper said. The pain is compounded by shame. Being sexually assaulted brings additional feelings of shame to a man because it works against the ideal of what it means to be a man, he said.

And it brings fear. “There’s fear of those memories, there’s fear of being violated, there’s fear that someone might know what happened to them,” Hopper said.

Men who have been sexually assaulted believe they are not worthy of respect, Strand said.

The men who are assaulted are overwhelmingly heterosexual and so are their assailants, the officials said.

“Most people who sexually assault adult men are heterosexuals,” Hopper said. “And those same heterosexual men who are assaulting men are often the same men assaulting women.”

Fear of Being Ostracized

Many males won’t get help, he said, because they feel they won’t be believed, understood or supported.

“Part of that is they know most people don’t expect men to be assaulted, that this can’t really happen to ‘a real man,’” Hopper said.

They are also afraid of their friends or teammates finding out what happened to them, he said. They believe they will be looked at as less than a man, that they will be ostracized and shunned. And, many victims see the assault as the death-knell to their careers.

The military services need to begin reaching out to male victims of sexual assault, the experts said. A safe, anonymous helpline could be the beginning for getting many of these men the help they need, they added.

The services also need to market programs aimed at commanders, health care professionals, police investigators and prosecutors, informing them of the problem and assets available to help their service members, the experts said.

Retreived from Department of Defense:

Defense Secretary: 10,400 Male Troops Subjected to 'Unwanted Sexual Contact' Last Year

By Susan Jones, April 23, 2015

( - Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a group of ROTC cadets on Wednesday that sexual assault is a "particular challenge and a particular disgrace" to the U.S. military.

He noted that last year, far more men (10,400) than women (8,500) "experienced unwanted sexual contact."

"We've made some progress," Carter said. "We seem to have seen some decrease in the estimated number of assaults, and we seem to have seen some increase in those reporting an assault.

"But, last year, we estimated that at least 18,900 service members -- 10,400 men and 8,500 women -- experienced unwanted sexual contact."

Carter added that "too few" men reported the incidents as sexual assault.

"So, altogether that's 18,900 too many. No man or woman who serves in the United States military should ever be sexually assaulted."

Carter said the U.S. military can't allow sexual assault to make the all-volunteer force unattractive to the next generation of fighters that it needs.

"One reason the military is among the most admired institutions in the United States is because of our code of honor and our code of trust, and also because we're known as a learning organization. We strive to understand and to correct our flaws.

"And as we spend more time and more resources to better understand sexual assault in the ranks, we've learned some lessons. And here are a few of them:

"We've learned that prevention is the most important way to eradicate sexual assault. And we've learned the prevention requires us not just to stop assaults, but also to stamp out permissive behaviors like tolerance for degrading language, inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment that too often contribute to and lead to sexual assaults."

Carter also mentioned retaliation against those who report, try to prevent or respond to sexual assault.

Eliminating sexual assault requires "leaders in the ranks with the courage to stand up to the behaviors that contribute to sexual assault, the courage to step up, step in and stop assaults, and the courage to act when others try to retaliate against those reporting, responding to, or preventing an assault."

He told the cadets they have to be part of the solution.

"We have serious work to do, and I need you to say 'enough' -- enough to dirty jokes, to excessive drinking, to hazing, to sexual advances, and to any suggestion that coercion is appropriate.

"I need you to intervene when you think an assault may occur. And if, for some reason, you're concerned about taking action, I need you to get help from a friend, from law enforcement, from a chaplain, or for a more -- from a more senior officer."

Carter said the nation is looking to the Defense Department to "lead boldly on sexual assault," and he promised that "stopping sexual assault will be a focus of my time as secretary of defense."

One of the female cadets asked Carter how opening combat positions to women squares with the military's effort to end sexual assault.

"Obviously, as we get women into more unaccustomed positions, maybe dangerous, isolated positions, maybe positions where they are fewer, in relation to the number of men, it opens up opportunities for predators," Carter replied.

"So on the one hand, it can lead in that direction. On the other hand, I think it kind of signifies to -- everyone will get used to working, men and women together, to defend the country and do these things.

"And I can't help but believe for many people, they'll learn better how to conduct themselves, how to interact across gender lines and so forth. And that will contribute to prevention and eventually eradication of sexual assaults."

Carter told another cadet he thinks "most" and "maybe all" positions in the military soon will be open to women:

"I don't know. And the reason I don't know is that the services that are working through the practicality of some of the most difficult MOSs (Military Occupation Specialties) and the most difficult -- most difficult from the point of view of reconciling traditional, at least, gender roles with combat effectiveness, unit cohesion and those kinds of things.

"Those are the things that people are grappling with."

I think they're grappling with them in good faith. I'm certainly grappling with them with an intention to do the maximum practical, because I think, for way too long, we have -- I think we've underestimated how well we can do. And I talked about us being a learning organization. We can learn this, too. So I'm pretty optimistic."

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