The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.61/No.33           September 28, 1997 
Military Report Admits: `Sexual Harassment Exists Throughout Army'  

An internal military investigation released September 11 found "sexual harassment exists throughout the Army, crossing gender, rank, and racial lines." The nine-month inquiry was conducted by the Secretary of the Army Senior Review Panel and Army Inspector General at 59 Army bases worldwide and surveyed 30,000 troops.

The report was completed months ago, but military officials delayed its release until September so Army Secretary Togo West could prepare a response. It said 84 percent of Army women and 80 percent of Army men reported they had experienced offensive and sexual behavior, unwanted sexual attention, coercion, or assault. About 22 percent of the women and 7 percent of the men surveyed said they had been sexually harassed in the last year. Additionally, 51 percent of the women said they faced job discrimination because of their sex.

The report comes in the wake of an outcry over sexual harassment in the military that was sparked from allegations of sexual abuse at the Army's Ordinance Center and School at Aberdeen, Maryland. Last November some 50 women accused their drill sergeants of harassment and assault. Over the next several months, 11 noncommissioned officers and one captain were accused of criminal misconduct. On September 10 the Army said it would discipline Major Gen. Robert Shadley, who was the commanding officer at Aberdeen at the time the sexual allegations surfaced.

In response to the allegations at Aberdeen, the army brass set up a hot line. It received 8,300 calls, including 1,350 reports that led to criminal investigations. On June 13 the hot line was turned off because it had supposedly served its purpose, according to an Army spokesperson. Women make up 14 percent of the Army's 480,000 soldiers.

The report said that female soldiers believed that their commanding officers had little interest in enforcing Army rules against sexual harassment. "We speak, but it's as if we don't exist," a female noncommissioned officer told investigators. Others said they worried about reprisals for reporting abuse. "You can report it, but they get you sooner or later," the Washington Post quoted one woman as saying.

Investigators added that this fact was evidence of a larger breakdown of trust between soldiers and their officers. Forty percent of the women and 37 percent of the men who were polled agreed with the statement that Army leaders were more interested in their own careers than in the well-being of the soldiers under their command. "Unfair treatment, double standards, and a lack of discipline were raised to Panel representatives time and again... Such a negative view of leaders is counterproductive to .. unit cohesion and combat readiness...

"Unfortunately, many soldiers simply do not trust the present system to deal with their concerns," the report said.

In response, Army Secretary West insisted September 11 that the situation at Aberdeen was "an aberration." West announced a plan to revamp the Army's enforcement of rules against sexual misconduct and replace commanding officers. This plan includes psychological testing and a criminal background check of drill sergeants, and adds a week of basic training to teach "ethical standards of the military."

Meanwhile, the highest ranking enlisted Army officer, Gene McKinney, now may face a court-martial. After being named to a special panel to reduce sexual harassment in the military, six women stepped forward with allegations that he harassed them. McKinney denied the charges and said they were racially motivated. McKinney is Black, as are all of the drill sergeants who were charged at Aberdeen. Seven soldiers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina were disciplined for sexual harassment or fraternization on September 4, receiving letters of reprimand and nonjudicial punishment, while still another soldier at Fort Jackson in South Carolina was dishonorably discharged for sexual misconduct August 31.  
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