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Reporting male military sexual assault: challenges as viewed by male enlisted and officer personnel in the Reserves and National Guard
McClain M, Cheney A, Mengeling M, Reisinger HS, Torner J, Booth B, Sadler AG. Reporting male military sexual assault: challenges as viewed by male enlisted and officer personnel in the Reserves and National Guard. Poster session presented at: AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting; 2014 Jun 9; San Diego, CA.
To better understand the lack of reporting by male victims of military sexual assault (MST) from an ecological perspective and the degree of endorsement about male rape myths by men from the unique culture of the Reserves and National Guard.
Seven focus groups were held in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri and Kanas. with informants identified through the Defense Manpower Data Center listing. A coding team transcribed and analyzed transcripts utilizing NVivo 8.0.
Twenty-nine informants that included both enlisted and officer personnel from the Army and Air Force Reserve and National Guard participated.
Despite the efforts of the military and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, informants had little knowledge of reporting options for male victims of MST. Participants had little to no knowledge that males are sexually victimized in the military and difficulty accepting men were assaulted and that services apply to male victims ("The fact that I don't know about this stuff, men bein' raped, means 9 times out of 10, if I go back to my social group today at the-at the end of our day meeting today, none of us know about men being raped. That's stuff that happens in prison. Not our military." "The army's had a program in place where you had to go through training on, ya know, EEO and sexual and this-and-that. That is geared towards really ma-male-female relations. I mean, it's geared-it's geared towards the man's always gonna be assaulting the woman. not the man's assaulting another man"). When given information on restricted and non-restricted reporting, most informants were highly skeptical of the confidentiality and effectiveness of reporting protections ("We have a commander, we-we use that chain, I don't - but I don't think it's necessarily put out that they're-what you're sayin' is protected, ya know?" "In order to prosecute somebody in U. UCMJ, you must have evidence. And the evidence is a complaint, and the best complaint is from the individual. And that's the only way you're gonna get that, and that's why people won't come forward, unless there's going. unless they know, or, unless they've been pushed"). Officers were somewhat more confident investigations would be conducted diligently and procedurally rigorous than were enlisted personnel ("I suppose uh, you know if you're truly following your-your leadership, the requirements and-and uh. you should take it no differently. Um. you should investigate"). The culture of the Reserve and National Guard are significant challenges to feeling confident in confidentiality (Administratively, it would be similar. but sure it would be different because you're. in Active Duty, it's. people from all over the United States, you get reassigned all the time, and - whereas in a reserve unit you're kind of stuck to, you know, you're from this region, and if you're gonna stay in the Guard or Reserve, everybody-everybody knows you. And there's no way you're really gonna. be anonymous anymore"). The unique culture of the Reserves and National Guard, coupled with the endorsement of many male rape myths ("In the military, we have this image of our military, that a male can handle himself in any situation. Alright? And to tell me a man got raped - first thing that's gonna go through my mind is, first of all, how did you allow someone to rape you without killin 'em?") indicated powerful barriers to male victims likely stepping forward to report assaults from the perspectives of informants.
In spite of great efforts to be inclusive of male victims of MST, male members of the Reserve and National Guard seem to little knowledge of options available and little confidence in the confidentiality of the process because of the nature of these types of units. In addition, acceptance of male rape myths provides a powerful disincentive to the victim to report assaults.
Implications for Policy and Practice
Improved awareness efforts of male MST occurrences, male rape myths, and reporting options are important to disseminate. The confrontation to challenge male rape myths is sufficiently lacking such that beliefs are for support of the victim rather than blaming the victim. It is important for clinicians to understand the cultural experience of male victims to provide sensitive care as it is unlikely victims will report assaults under the current mores of the Reserve and National Guard cultures.