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When will the military have its #MeToo moment?

Sexual misconduct remains a substantial issue for service members

The rise of #MeToo and #TimesUp has had little impact on rates of sexual assault in the military. Can it be prevented? Join our world-renowned panel of experts to answer this critical question, and others.

As global movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp rapidly gain momentum in exposing systemic sexual assault and abuse, the military appears to have been left behind.

Despite major scandals and an increased awareness of military sexual violence across national military organisations, public commitments to preventing sexual harassment have been relatively hollow and rates of violence have not decreased.

Last year sexual assaults in the US military increased by almost 38 percent, according to a recent report by the Pentagon. In Australia the Department of Defence reported earlier this year that the number of sexual misconduct victims for 2017-18 was "similar" to  2016-17.

In addition, #MeToo and #TimesUp do not seem to have resonated with survivors of sexual violence within national militaries. While public attention to military sexual violence – including media coverage – remains largely focused on scandals, such as the infamous 2011 ‘Skype sex scandal,’ there is a glaring lack of attention devoted to overall data or trends around military sexual assault.

This panel brings together some of the world’s leading experts to discuss why military sexual violence remains a persistent problem across many national militaries, including the Australian Defence Force and the US military.

Panellists will aim to get to the heart of this issue and answer the following questions.

  • How does the media talk about military sexual assault?
  • Why haven’t the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements been embraced by service members?
  • Is military sexual violence an ‘inevitable’ by-product of having men and women working together – can it be prevented?

This event was held on Wednesday 17 July, 2019 at the University of Sydney. It was part of Megan Mackenzie’s SSSHARC Pop-up Research Lab and co-presented with the Centre for International Security Studies.

The speakers

Samantha is a Director at Rapid Context and has 20 years of experience in the design, implementation, analysis and reporting of strategic and academic research. Samantha began her career as an academic specialising in Sociology of Health before starting her own consulting business, which has taken on major research projects related to military culture and gender integration.

Eda Gunaydin (BA Hons I, Medal) is a graduate student in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Her key research interests are in the areas of identity, and postcolonial and discourse theory in international relations. She has worked as a researcher in the Department since 2015, and is the lead researcher of the military sexual violence project headed by Professor Megan MacKenzie.

Ellen Haring is the Chief Executive Officer at the Service Women's Action Network. She is also a senior fellow at Women in International Security where she directs the Combat Integration Initiative project. Her research and work focuses on women and gender in the military. Haring is a West Point graduate, a retired Army colonel, and an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University where she teaches courses on Human Security and Women, Peace and Security.

Shannon Sampert is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Winnipeg and Director and Editor-in-chief of Evidence Network.ca, an organisation that works with policy researchers in the dissemination of their research through Canadian media. Recently, she also took a leave from academia to work as the first female Op-ed Editor in the Winnipeg Free Press’s 140-year history. Her research focuses on Canadian politics, media and gender.

Antonieta Rico is the former Director of Communications and Policy at the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) and an advocate for military women and women veterans. She served in the U.S. Army and has deployed to Iraq, where she embedded with infantry units during day-to-day missions and combat operations. She is a Fellow at Women in International Security, has worked as a deputy news editor at Army Times, and has written for TIME about the military's sexual assault epidemic and the #MeToo movement.

Megan Mackenzie is a Professor of Gender and War in the Department of Government and International Relations and an Honorary Associate at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney. Her research is broadly aimed at reducing war; it bridges feminist theory, critical security studies, critical military studies, and international relations. Megan’s research projects include an international analysis of military suicide, military sexual assault, and the integration of women into combat roles.

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