The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements inspired an all-black “dress code” at the 2018 Golden Globes. Celebrities came together and wore black to stand in solidarity with victims and to stand up against sexual assault in the entertainment industry, according to Vox.
Since the height of its media coverage, the #MeToo movement has served as a powerful tool for victims of sexual violence to not feel alone in what they went through.
However, there was a blind spot in the media’s coverage and people’s understanding of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements — the military.
The brutal death of Texas soldier Vanessa Guillen shed a light on sexual assault in the military, something that had been largely overlooked by many who supported the #MeToo movement. Guillen was a person with a life, a family and a future. Although her death does serve as a spotlight to the issues within the U.S. military, she is more than just something that sparked this conversation. It is crucial we don’t dehumanize victims.
According to the New York Times, Guillen had told her friends and family that she experienced harassed in her workplace. The media attention on Guillen’s story stirred up a conversation regarding the sexual assault culture in the military. This caused Fort Hood officials to make a statement, saying that they will investigate Guillen’s accusations and will look into the flaws in their current sexual assault response systems.
According to the New York Times podcast The Daily, there are upwards of tens of thousands of military members who report being sexually assaulted in regular surveys, however only a small percentage of those are officially reported, even a smaller percentage is taken to trial, and of that small percentage, there is a rare conviction, which will likely be overturned. The reasoning for this is that the military’s court systems favor the accused over the victim, as it doesn’t look so good for the military to have all these convicted sexual assaulters, and so they turn a blind eye to most accusations.
There is a culture in the military that normalizes sexual assault and rape, according to The Daily podcast. One of the most notable events of this toxic culture coming to light is the Tailhook scandal. Tailhook was an aviator convention in Las Vegas. At the convention, it was clear that many thought they were allowed to live above the law for the weekend. One particular year, after the US had won the Persian Gulf War, the environment at Tailhook was extra toxic. As women would enter the area where the aviators were they would be intensely grabbed and talked at, according to The Daily podcast.
Experiences like those listed above, are not only present in the military but everywhere. Rape culture is a societal and systemic issue. Rape culture ranges from “locker room talk” to school dress codes to catcalling. And essentially is just society’s collective way of sweeping that ways we allow sexual assault to exist under the rug.
We cannot fail Vanessa Guillen and the tens of thousands of other women whose stories get pushed to the bottom of the barrel. The sexual assault culture in the military is real, and something that simply cannot exist anymore, but that won’t just happen, we have to listen to survivors, take allegations to court and do the right thing.