As noted earlier, the military very much wants to increase reporting of sexual violence. It hopes that increased reporting will, along with prevention and other efforts, move it toward the goal of reducing military sexual violence to (near) nonexistence. All the rules and procedures the military has instituted have clear ties to the identified problems, yet the numbers fluctuate and sometimes do not seem to indicate success. Perhaps the critical dilemma is that truly eliminating sexual violence in the military requires accomplishing a major culture change (Kehle-Forbes, 2017; SAPRO, 2017; CRS, 2013).
At the higher echelons, this need for culture change is understood and talked about, although even there not everyone is prepared to take the steps needed. As an example, military juries, usually composed of senior officers, often hand out extremely light punishments in the legal cases that actually make it to a penalty decision. Even more disheartening is that in recent years a few incidents of sexual misbehavior have actually involved high-level officers, including one who ran the Air Force’s SAPRO (Lawhorne Scott, 2014; Martinez, 2013).
There are numerous multi-generational personnel layers in the military, and the time frame to succeed in making such a culture change may be decades. Solving the problem likely requires perseverance over time and across the organization and, because it is a situation with deep roots in our society, it may not be just the military that has to make that culture change.
A bright spot may be that colleges and universities are starting to deal with sexual violence issues and are finding some success at raising awareness and changing attitudes among young people (MIT, 2014). In their arsenals of prevention, both schools and the military have begun using bystander training programs as part of their prevention efforts—also with some indications of success (MIT, 2014; SAPRO). (n.d.-7). Encouraging people to take responsibility for sexual behavior and to step up when someone is acting irresponsibly is just a piece of the culture change needed to fix a problem as seemingly intractable as sexual violence.