Military Sexual Assault & LGBT Elder Abuse

Tying together the oppression that binds those who can’t scream loud enough.

Chapter 11 of Honor Betrayed reminded me of my work with SAGE Metro St. Louis when it highlighted the fact that data on sexual assault has not been collected until recently. At SAGE Metro St. Louis, I became acutely aware that data on LGBT older adults has not been collected until recently, so there is vast underreporting of instances of LGBT elder abuse and discrimination. This lack of data makes it difficult to prove that a problem exists, although in the cases of sexual assault in the military and LGBT elder abuse and discrimination, it is clear that the evidence that we have suggests that there is a problem. Thus, advocates for victims of military sexual assault and LGBT older adults face the similar challenge of emphasizing that oppression faced by military sexual assault survivors and LGBT older adults affects everyone. These are national problems that threaten to break the strength and shake the well-being of our nation and our communities. It is difficult to convey how injustice faced by the minority can affect the majority as well; Dr. Mic Hunter writes, “Most people accept that sexual abuse harms those individuals who are the target of it. However, many people, including those in the military, do not fully appreciate how the wide spread existence, and tolerance, of sexual abuse within the ranks causes grave damage to the military as a whole” (Hunter 209).

Dr. Hunter thoroughly lists the ways in which military sexual assault adversely affects military effectiveness. Of course, enlistment, retention, communication, mission readiness, morale, discipline, command authority, respect, trust, loyalty and reputation have different implications and applications in military environments versus our local communities, assisted living centers, nursing homes, hospitals and hospices. On the other hand, many of these factors which break down as a result of military sexual assault are factors that also crumble for LGBT older adults when elder abuse and discrimination occurs. Marketing to, retaining, communicating, pursuing goals (e.g. physical, psychological, spiritual well-being), emotional affect, respect, trust, loyalty, and reputation are all affected when LGBT older adults are abused and discriminated against. Those affected include LGBT older adults, those who care for them (e.g. friends and family of choice, social workers, doctors, clergy, advocates), and those who care about living in a world where all people are treated with dignity and respect. Hunter writes about how a damaged reputation will adversely affect the recruiting process, because people will not want to belong to an institution or unit that treats its members badly. The FY 2012 Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military aptly lists the objectives of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Strategic Plan by beginning with “to achieve unity of effort and purpose across all of DoD in the executive of sexual assault prevention and response” (Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military 4). This aim suggests that we will benefit more from unity, rather than division, and a military that consistently and intentionally treats all of its officers and recruits with dignity and respect. Similarly, we will achieve better well-being in our nation if we seek unity, rather than division, and create a country where all people are treated with dignity and respect everywhere, rather than in select cities or states.

“Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.” Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. Department of Defense, May 6, 2013. Web. 14 September 2013.

Hunter, Mic. Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military. Fort Lee: NJ. Barricade Books. 2007. Print.

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