The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 14, 2013

Military works to change culture to combat rape

(Continued)

"We need cultural change, where every service member is treated with dignity and respect, where all allegations of inappropriate behavior are treated with seriousness, where victims' privacy is protected, where bystanders are motivated to intervene, and where offenders know that they will be held accountable by strong and effective systems of justice," Hagel said after the report was released.

Hagel ordered all commanders to inspect workspaces by July 1 to ensure they were free of degrading material, and he gave military leaders until Nov. 1 to recommend ways to hold officers accountable for their commands' environments.

In June, thousands of military men and women attended interactive, in-your-face training programs as part of a Pentagon-ordered stand-down from regular duties to specifically address sexual assault. The service members role-played uncomfortable scenarios, watched explicit videos that included rape scenes and were grilled over the meaning of "consent" in boot camp-style lectures. Some branches allowed media to attend the sessions.

During one course at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, S.C., 1st Sgt. Rena Bruno paced in front of screens filled with statistics as she schooled 200 recruits, in their 10th day of basic training, on the definitions of sexual assault and harassment.

"We're tired of hearing about it in every military branch!" Bruno bellowed. "It brings dishonor to the Marine Corps! You got that?"

"Yes, ma'am!" the young men yelled back.

Bruno cited an incident in which a Marine drugged his roommate, and then videotaped the ensuing encounter. The class groaned, but recruit Alex Ritter, 21, of Lafayette, La., said Bruno's message came through loud and clear: "It shows what's happening both in the civilian world and in the armed forces."

At another class at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, about 200 airmen, mostly in their 20s, watched videos that showed an old World War II bomber plane decorated with a painting of a pinup girl and a sexually suggestive squadron patch.

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