Sexual assault in the United States military has recently been recognized as a serious problem, but the issue has deep roots.
Veterans of the Vietnam War have begun to offer testimony of sexual assaults during the 1960s and 1970s. A number of these cases involve male veterans who were assaulted by other male soldiers and sailors.
These stories of male victims of rape and sexual assault suggest a broader pattern of sexual violence that is often ignored: male-on-male sexual assault.
Recent assessments of sexual violence in the US military indicate that male soldiers and sailors apparently made up the majority (c. 53%) of victims in reported incidents of sexual assault in 2012.
Gendered analyses of sexual assault need to avoid the presumption that sexual violence is “violence against women.” Males are often victims of sexual assault in military organizations. Some incidents of female-on-male sexual harassment and assault in the US military have also emerged. This should remind us that both men and women can be victims of rape and sexual violence.
The problem of sexual assault in the military thus needs to be assessed through a careful study of the violent acts and the perpetrators of those attacks.
The New York Times reports on sexual assault in the US Armed Forces.