Even as the United States Air Force is coping with a major sex abuse scandal at Lackland Air Force Base, the United States Marine Corps has move ahead and introduced a twenty-seven page plan aimed at addressing sexual assault within the ranks. The plan has been signed off by Marine Commandant General James Amos and addresses many of the numerous obstacles that exist to preventing sexual assault in the ranks and addressing them. These include the command climate that currently encourages sexual harassment and fosters retaliation against those who speak up. It also addresses the undue scrutiny of the victim’s behavior which is often done instead of pursuing the crime that has been committed.
The Servicewomen’s Action Network applauds the Marines for addressing these issue, but they are still “concerned about the victim-blaming included in the Marine Corps’ messaging, including training that focuses on victims avoiding ‘high-risk situations.’”
Marine Captain (ret.) Anu Bhagwati, the Executive Director of SWAN, stated “Victims shouldn’t be held responsible for stopping rapists. Training videos and poster campaigns also don’t stop sexual predators. We need real legal deterrents for rapists and the commanding officers who protect them. The Marine Corps blames its ‘poor command climate’ on ‘unengaged leadership’. What I’ve seen firsthand as a former Marine officer and now through the experiences of countless active duty and veteran Marine clients is that leadership is not just ‘unengaged’, leadership is often criminally negligent. If the Marine Corps wants to influence cultural change, it needs to punish perpetrators and leaders who look the other way with jail time and dishonorable discharges. These people don’t deserve to wear the uniform.”
According to SWAN:
The plan provides a three-part outline for six goals: “true zero tolerance, effective sustainment, empowered reporting, effective deterrence, engaged leadership and evolved culture.”
The campaign also prioritizes “removing gender bias”, including plans to integrate drill instructor teams at recruit training. However, the Marine Corps has no plans to integrate recruits at boot camp, and remains the only branch of service to segregate basic training by gender. SWAN advocates for full integration of Marine recruits.
Only 6-7% of the Marine Corps is female, with 38% of positions still off-limits to women. SWAN advocates for increased accession rates for women both on the officer and enlisted side. SWAN also advocates for equal opportunities for all women in the Marines to pursue assignments that will expose them to direct ground combat. SWAN maintains that these policy changes will improve the current climate in which sexual assault and harassment are allowed to flourish.