Writing

Reflections

Some thoughts on eliminating sexual assault in the military

As a longtime women’s advocate, I was pleased to see the article “In Debate Over Military Sexual Assault, Men Are Overlooked Victims” crystalize an important point that deserves more discussion: The same limiting, damaging notions of masculinity that have made violence against women rampant in the military — and the largest human rights abuse worldwide — also hurt men.

Men are taught from a young age that “masculine” means take power and that femininity is the enemy. They are taught — outside and inside military culture — that to show fear or pain or vulnerability is to show “weakness.” To throw — or far worse, cry — “like a girl” is pretty much the worst thing you can do.

We must dismantle these outdated notions. They’re wrong — and even worse, they’re toxic to men and to women, to military effectiveness, to national strength, and to human rights.

Confronting this culture is the first step to ending sexual violence, against men and women, in the military, and in ending the global epidemic of violence against women. And that will take men. Millions of men have already begun this progress by promising to take concrete steps to address this poisonous culture in their own lives.

Culture must change to stop sexual violence in, and outside of, the military. The change must come from men — those in our leadership and those among all of our ranks.

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