Living on base brings a sense of security. Families feel safer knowing that there are gate guards and military police. All the people on base must be honest and decent since they’re part of the military, right? Not necessarily.
You never know what a person is capable of and many military families leave themselves open to being taken advantage of because they have their defenses down.
Take for example, a Marine Corps colonel that was recently convicted in a court-martial of sexually abusing a child. He was a highly decorated service member with over 30 years in the military. He had been on 11 deployments. He was sentenced to 5 and a half years in confinement.
The colonel was living on base at the time. How would you feel if he was your neighbor? You probably wouldn’t feel as safe living on base as you did before this.
It’s as if military families are blind to things such as sexual abuse and sexual assault while living on base.
If this is the case, then you might be surprised to know that sexual assault reports in U.S. military have reached record highs recently.
Statistics released from the Pentagon show that 6,172 cases of sexual assault were reported in last year alone. That’s up from the 6,082 reported in 2015. The number of sexual assaults reported have gone up dramatically from 2012 when 3,604 cases were reported. Is living on base starting to sound less safe?
You’ve felt safe leaving your door unlocked. You might let your kids walk to school, the movie theater, the park or to a friend’s house on base.
They were unsupervised, but because you are living on base, you feel like it is safe for them to do so.
You might not have let them do such things if you lived out in town.
Even if there wasn’t the threat of danger from service members or their family members, there are others on base that you might not think twice about.
Most military bases utilize contractors for multiple services. Think about those that take care of maintenance and lawn care. Your children might walk right past these people daily.
Do you ever stop to wonder what they are thinking? Are they watching your children? Are they talking to them? Would your children know not to go with them anywhere?
Perhaps seeing them so often makes them feel safe around them and then wouldn’t have their guard up. They could easily be taken advantage of in this case.
Living on base has many perks, but you still have to stay vigilant.
Take some time and talk to your family. Make sure that they are aware of their environment. Don’t let living on base make you or your family easy victims. Teach your children to be polite and friendly, but not to be naive.
You can’t guarantee that you can prevent something from happening, but you can try. Have a family discussion about safety.
Give your kids examples of what to look out for. They might not be faced with the usual ruse of a stranger offering candy or asking for help finding a lost dog. Abusers have become very clever in drawing out unsuspecting people.
While protecting your children is extremely important, you need to protect yourself as well. There is a recent report from an anonymous survey that showed that 14,900 service members were sexually assaulted in 2016 alone. This includes every type of sexual abuse, from groping to rape. While this number sounds staggering, it is actually down from the 20,300 people that said they were sexually assaulted in 2014. Sadly, 58 percent of those that reported it faced reprisals and even retaliation if they reported it.
Sexual assault is not necessarily caused by strangers. It may happen in the workplace, by superiors or by any other service member.
It could also happen in the home. Wives can be sexually assaulted by their spouse. According to a report, 78 percent of sexual abuse allegations stem from people the victim knew.
Don’t suffer in silence.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and know the name of the assailant, they should be turned in. You aren’t necessarily safe living on base, as they may live there too.