Civil-military relations and sexual assault
Bluhm, Brandi K.
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The Bureau of Justice Statistics' Criminal Victimization Survey reported that there were 284,350 rapes or sexual assaults in the United States in 2014. In the same year, the Department of Defense (DOD) Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) estimated that 18,900 sexual assaults occurred in the military. In recent years, Congress has been increasing pressure on the military to improve sexual assault prevention and response; some efforts to resolve the sexual assault problem in the military have included proposals to alter the military justice system to resemble its civilian counterpart. Yet, as the numbers suggest, the civilian justice system may not be doing such a good job either. Civil-military relations revolve around who controls what. This thesis addresses the role of civil-military relations in regard to sexual assault prevention and response. Through official statistics, documents from the state of California and the Department of Defense, scholarly research, and reports from the media, this paper describes the experience of the victim as he or she navigates through either system. The comparison of the systems side by side reveals that, if the civilian and military communities work together to capitalize on learning from each other, real progress can occur in serving victims of sexual assault in both systems. The power struggle in civil-military relations, over who controls what, tends to distract from the root issue of serving victims of sexual assault. The focus must shift from Who is doing a worse job? to How can both systems learn from the other to improve and best serve the victims of these horrible crimes?
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