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Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment In The U.s. Military

Sexual discrimination including sexual harassment is also prohibited in all branches of the military. In 1994, then Secretary of Defense William Perry created the military's own version of the EEOC, the Defense Equal Opportunity Council Task Force on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment (DEOC). The Council was established to investigate the system used by the military to register complaints and to suggest means of improving the procedures. A 1995 survey conducted by the Department of Defense showed that the percentage of women in the military reporting unwelcome and uninvited sexual advances dropped slightly between 1988 and 1995. The respondents of the survey consisted of both male and female members of the U.S. Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force.

Sexual harassment in the military can be even more invasive in the victim's life than sexual harassment in nonmilitary workplaces. Not only do the offenders work in close proximity to their victims, they may live nearby as well. Additionally, a superior in the military may have greater power to influence one's current life and future position, and legally a person cannot resign from his or her position in the military. These factors, coupled with the level of trust that must be cultivated between an officer and his or her trainees, provides a superior who abuses his or her power ample leverage in creating sexually harassing situations.

In spite of the Defense Department's attempt to prevent sexual harassment, in a 1996 military court martial, 32-year-old Army Staff Sergeant Delmar Simpson was found guilty of raping six female trainees at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground. The allegations of sexual abuse at Aberdeen exposed a pervasive problem in the army. In addition to Simpson, ten other sergeants and one captain at Aberdeen were charged with counts ranging from rape to adultery to obstructing justice. The incidents at the Aberdeen Proving Ground revealed that sexual discrimination, including sexual harassment, was a problem within all ranks, genders, and racial groups. Togo West, Jr., then Secretary of the Army, acknowledged that sexual harassment within the army persisted. Army Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer told Phil Ponce of PBS that he viewed the misconduct found at Aberdeen as "a leadership failure." An editorial by Harry Summer, Jr., of the Los Angeles Times succinctly described the corruption of trust involved in the Aberdeen incidents: "For a young woman to be sexually assaulted by her drill sergeant is like being molested by her father."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesSexual Harassment - History Of Legislation, Judicial Precedent Set By U.s. Supreme Court, Bill Passed Allowing Damages For Victims Of Sexual Harassment