We are hearing a lot lately about sexual violence in the military. Marie Deschamps released a report about the issue. Julie Lalonde has been in the media after her experience of sexual harassment during a presentation at Royal Military College and then the harassment and death threats she received after going public about the abuse.
Dear Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF),
We understand that within the last month, you’ve been facing a lot of criticism about a sexual violence in the military. We also understand that your initial reaction to this criticism might be to say, “#NotAllSoldiers.”
Let us be clear: The criticism you are facing is not directed at any one member of the Forces, but rather a culture that permits, excuses, and minimizes the experience of sexual assault and harassment in the military.
You’ve been given an opportunity by Madame Deschamps’s report to challenge and change this culture. Indeed, it is the CAF’s opportunity to go above and beyond the ‘call of duty’ that she laid out in her report. The proven benefits of prevention are founded in its ability to address the normalization and minimization of sexual violence. Through the consistent challenging of sexist attitudes and violent behaviour, a culture which permits sexual violence will be eliminated. Without direct, decisive, and consistent action a culture of violence will continue to thrive. The CAF also needs to take steps to truly believe survivors and provide adequate support when violence does occur. Transformation can only occur by:
1. Calling sexual violence what it is. This is a not “pressing desires,” it is not “biological wiring.” Even the language of “sexual misconduct” minimizes the severity of what we are talking about. Sexual violence is an inexcusable exercise of power which is meant to dehumanize and violate another person’s human rights.