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Staff Sgt. Tara Bowman, victim advocate for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, briefs students during a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program Ambassadors course at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, April 13, 2021 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. True Thao/U.S. Defense Department)

Gender-based harassment and assault are long-standing issues for the United States military. According to the New York Times, nearly one in four service women report being sexually assaulted in the military. The Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, while mostly focused on international partners, also has requirements for the Defense Department (DoD).

  • Kyleanne Hunter, adjunct senior fellow for the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security, said the Defense Department has made “slow progress but progress” on implementing the legislation, which codifies into law women’s essential role in national security and elevates the problem of gender-based violence to a key operational issue.
  • Hunter said the law recognizes that DoD must be a diverse and inclusive place for women to succeed at all levels, that unique protections are needed for women and girls impacted by conflict and that women’s leaving the military because of sexual harassment and assault affects national security.
  • Hunter said the military should incorporate issues of gender-based violence, harassment and assault into training at every level to change the culture.

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