Figures show 38 men are sexually assaulted every single day in the US military – and it’s a myth to assume most of the perpetrators are gay – a leading clinician says.
James Asbrand, a psychologist with the Salt Lake City Veteran Affairs post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) clinical team, is seeking to challenge the false notion that sexual orientation lies behind the prevalence of male sexual assaults in the US military.
Mr Asbrand told GQ: “One of the myths is that the perpetrators identify as gay, which is by and large not the case. It’s not about the sex. It’s about power and control.
“In a hypermasculine culture, what’s the worst thing you can do to another man? Force him into what the culture perceives as a feminine role.”
An estimated 14,000 military men were assaulted in 2012, according to GQ.
Most of the victims refused to inform their superiors, many fearing repercussions detrimental to their career.
Dana Chipman, who served as a judge advocate general for the US Army from 2009 to 2013, said: “The way we socialise people probably has some effect on the incidents.
“We cut your hair, and we give you the same clothes, and we tell you that you have no more privacy, you have no more individual rights—we’re gonna take you down to your bare essence and then rebuild you in our image.”
Research reveals that military sexual trauma (MST) victims are often falsely diagnosed with personality disorders so that they can be discharged without the federal government bearing the cost of aftercare required in treating post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
Mental health is a huge issue for the military.
An estimated 31,000 military personnel were involuntarily discharged for personality disorders between 2001 and 2010.
Although the US military lifted Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a ban which prevented gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the military in 2011, many gay service personnel feel unable to be open about their sexual orientation.
Charles Bigo, a victim of sexual abuse who served in the US Army from 1966-1969, spoke of how he experienced a sense of self-blame.
“I’ve told my psychologist, ‘Maybe it’s my fault, because I’m gay.’ I was looking for friendship, companionship, some kind of emotional connection with somebody. They were predators. They knew what they saw in me that allowed them to be that way.”
He continued: “I’m terrified of men. I’m gay and I’m terrified of men. I can’t even get an erection, especially since I got sober. I isolate. I don’t go to movies, I can’t handle concerts. I have horrid nightmares.
“Last Christmas, I went to dinner with some friends, and at one point I started panicking so bad I had to get out of the restaurant. I was shaking. I never even told anybody about this until last July. Do you know what it’s like to live with this for thirty years?”