Despite DoD exerting numerous efforts geared toward countering sexual violence, sexual assault cases throughout the army keep rising. Service members face a significant probability of being victims of sexual assault. In 2022, there were more than 8,866 cases of sexual assault, which was a 1% increase over 2021. However in 2021, there was a 13% increase from 2020 (U.S. Department of Defense, 2023). Notably, this has been the trend for decades. This paper seeks to highlight potential factors causing this distasteful trend. It is only by understanding the underlying factors causing the increasing prevalence of sexual assault throughout the army that the DoD can formulate lasting solutions to the problem.
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There exist various factors that contribute to the continued increase of sexual assaults throughout the military. First, DoD mechanisms for reporting and accountability are insufficient in deterring perpetrators which results in underreporting. Most cases of sexual assault throughout the army are underreported as victims fear stigma and retaliation while others lack confidence in the military justice system (Acosta et al., 2021). Second, DoD installations do not implement prevention measures that are consistent with the best evidence. Contemporary research works have pointed out that the current training approach is not evidence-based hence does not lead to the adoption of best practices (Acosta et al., 2021). Third, DoD does not have sufficient infrastructure to effectively address the problem by implementing evidence-based prevention (Acosta et al., 2021). Lastly, there exists limited research on effective prevention approaches to sexual harassment and sexual assault. Acosta et al. elucidate that there only exists a limited number of empirical investigations focusing on the subject.
The above-identified underlying factors, can help devise solutions to the prevalence of sexual assault prevalence within the army. According to Okes (2019), root cause analysis stands out as the core of problem-solving and corrective action. From the root cause analysis, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive framework consisting of four key components. One, holding both perpetrators and leaders accountable as a preventative measure. This should entail implementing relatively more fair, transparent, and consistent systems to prevent incidents from occurring and hold perpetrators as well as leaders accountable when incidents occur.
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Two, DoD should equip service members and leaders across the board with all the tools they need to prevent problem behaviors. Relying on deterrence alone will not be sufficient, prevention activities must be tailor-made based on the best evidence available. Three, DoD needs to set a standard for excellence, particularly in comprehensive sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention. When setting the standard, DoD must prioritize prevention efforts that seek to eliminate risk factors. Lastly, the framework must emphasize the need to set off and support research works geared toward studying sexual assault in the army.
To sum up, the increasing prevalence of sexual assault throughout the army has been a longstanding issue that despite numerous efforts by the DoD to combat the issue keeps aggravating. This essay has demonstrated that the key factors leading to the problem stem from DoD’s inability to hold perpetrators and leaders accountable, not using evidence-based preventative approaches, lack of sufficient infrastructure, and inadequate research to promote evidence-based best practices. By addressing these challenges, DoD can potentially effectively address the longstanding issue of sexual assault throughout the army. In the relentless pursuit to defend the nation’s border, service members must never forget to fortify the walls or respect and trust within their ranks to ensure that the legacy they leave is not one tarnished by sexual assault prevalence.