Sexual assault in the military and the way it is handled continues to be at the top of a list of internal problems with no easy answer. This morning, USA Today highlighted the lawsuit that demands the Department of Defense stop putting commanders in charge of sexual assault complaints and cases.
The suit goes on to expose a systemic culture of misogynistic behavior with the revival of an Air Force songbook as evidence. The songbook was discovered in 2012 by former Air Force Technical Sgt. Jennifer Smith when she was at Shaw Air Base near Sumter, South Carolina. Tech Sgt. Smith found the songbook on a company computer and reported her findings to her chain of command. When she got no results, she filed a formal complaint with Air Force leadership as well as with the Inspector General.
Smith’s complaint contributed to a “service wide sweep” in 2012 that removed all images objectifying women from work spaces and public areas. In a press conference today Smith said her co-workers harassed and mocked her after she complained that she worked in a sexually hostile work environment.
The songbook — containing songs such as Bye Bye Cherry and The S&M Man, which graphically describes sexually mutilating women and dragging AIDS victims behind a bus — was uncovered by one of the four plaintiffs in the case.
Six commanders were punished in the original case but all of the officers involved only received a paper reprimand. The officers are still in leadership positions and will oversee all airmen, both men and women, who file sexual assault claims. Former Tech. Sgt. Smith also said she was sexually assaulted in Germany by her Master Sergeant. Other airmen intervened on her behalf.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment is not unique to the Air Force. Today Army Times reported on a program newly instituted by Army Sgt. Major Dan Daily called the “Not in my squad” concept.
Army Times writes, “The idea is to put first-line leaders directly into the fight against sexual assault and sexual harassment, issues that are among the top priorities for senior Army leaders.”
In 2014, the Navy reassigned Capt. Greg McWherter, a former commander of the Blue Angels after allegations that the elite team of pilots was a “hotbed of hazing, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.”
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