Friday, June 21, 2013

How are women in the military being affected by all the news coverage of sexual assault?

I live in an area highly populated with military personnel and see a lot of them in my local coffee shop on a regular basis. With all the news on sexual assault in the military, I have started to wonder how all this attention is affecting all women in the military on a regular basis. Is it making it better? Are their male colleagues, those in lower ranks and leaders paying more attention to their own behaviors that could be or border on sexual harassment? Have the incidents of rape decreased because everyone is on high alert and have been told rape is wrong (sad that it has to be pointed out)?

Or have things gotten worse for them? Are they hearing snide comments from their peers about how all the attention is affecting/changing the military. Are they now being micro-managed more so than their male counterparts? What are they experiencing now? I don't have the answer, I'm just wondering if anyone is checking in with them. You know that saying that things get worse before they get better? Is it getting worse for women in this transition?

Being my mother's (who once got a whole train of folks she didn't know to sing "You Are My Sunshine") daughter, I have to make myself not go and strike up a conversation about this with women in uniform when I see them. My concern is that I would make them uncomfortable not just if they happen to be victims/survivors but if they are made to feel like they are speaking for all women in the military and maybe they want to distance themselves from the conversation for fear of retaliation. This must be a very tricky (to put it mildly) time to be a woman in the military and my heart goes out to them. Has their working environment become (more) hostile?

I've always tried to avoid qualifying a professional by their gender (like woman police officer, female judge, female soldier, etc...). I don't want to make them feel like they're an afterthought or an "other", like they're just visitors in a male-dominated field. It is their job and their gender should not matter. They're soldiers who protect our country just like all the other soldiers. They don't deserve to be harassed or assaulted (no one does).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't be talking about this issue in the news and drawing attention to it. If we don't talk about it then nothing will happen to change it. I just think there also needs to be attention on how women are being treated during this process. Also, I should point out that not all men in the military harass or assault women. I know some wonderful military men who I know would not (and even have not) stood for such violence.

As I said, I don't have the answers to my questions and I don't particularly want to bombard other coffee shop patrons with personal questions. Do you have any insights?

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