New Armed Services Sub-Committee Chair Challenges Sexual Harassment in the Military

Representative Susan Davis (D-CA), a member of the male-dominated House Armed Services Committee, announced that she plans to attack head-on the issue of sexual harassment in the military. As the newly named chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, she will now have the power to direct formal oversight of the issue.

“Unfortunately, it is not just the enemy that women must defend themselves against. There have been far too many cases of military sexual trauma perpetrated by their male colleagues and commanders,” Davis told Congressional Quarterly.

In 1990, the Department of Defense released the first major study of sexual harassment in the military, in which two-thirds of the active duty women who were interviewed reported being victims of some form of sexual harassment. The forms of harassment varied from pressure to perform sexual favors, to touching, to rape and attempted rape. Seventy-one percent of women who reported being harassed said they had suffered three or more forms of harassment.

The 2005 National Defense Authorization Act required the military to create annual reports on the prevalence of sexual assault. In the first year of the study there were 212,000 women in active duty in the military and 1,700 allegations of sexual assault. The second annual report showed a 40 percent increase, with 2,374 allegations of sexual assault, though the military says the rise may simply reflect an increase in reporting. The third annual report, released March 2007, showed a rise again, with nearly 3,000 reported cases, and the report also noted an increase in the punishment of offenders.


The New York Times 9/11/90, 11/12/96; CQ 07/06/07

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