Justice

Friday Puzzler: Sexual Assault and the US Military

US Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez

US Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez

By Barbara F. Walter

Over the last six months we’ve read lots of news stories about sexual assault of female soldiers in the US military. We’ve read about the number of reported sexual assaults, the military brass’ tolerance of abuse, and its possible causes. The media has also published lots of suggestions for how to reduce or eliminate the abuse. Few of the articles published over the last six months, however, has addressed or answered the central puzzle associated with this abuse. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the sexual abuse of female soldiers is worse in the US than in other militaries that include women. Why is the sexual abuse of female soldiers more prevalent in the US than in other Western militaries with female soldiers?

(Some countries, not yet including the US, allow women to serve in combat roles. These include New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Israel, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.)

So today’s puzzler includes a two-part question: How does sexual abuse of female soldiers in the US compare to the sexual abuse of female soldiers in other Western armies? And if it is higher, why has the US military done such a poor job preventing this abuse?

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