Sexual culture shock in Korea

by Sgt. Uriah Walker
U.S. Army

DAEGU, South Korea, June 6, 2017 - Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Culture is also a living thing in that it is constantly changing and evolving. There was a time when cigarette and beer commercials aired during primetime television and seatbelts were optional. Neither of which today's society would accept as normal because they have been deemed detrimental to our health and safety.

It is this very change in our society, of cultural norms, that alters our perspective of acceptable. This thinking applies to fashion, language, diet and more. Unfortunately, too many individuals feel that sexual harassment and assault are okay, with some small groups even glamorizing it. While we could place blame on outside influences we, as individuals, are ultimately responsible for our actions.

"Sex is always going to be important to people," said Russell Strand, Chief of the U.S. Army Military Police School Behavioral Sciences Education & Training Division, during a visit to Camp Henry, June 2. "It's one of those primitive drives we have. We look at people that we're sexually attracted to and we feel those attractions. But, just because we walk into a candy store and see a lot of candy doesn't mean we can touch it, we can't take it ourselves, there are certain rules."

Strand further explained that we need to teach healthy sex. Instead of ignoring it, we should talk about it and under what conditions it is appropriate. The Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program has advanced since its inception, nearly a decade ago, from standard Power Point presentations to realistic, and in some cases live, on-stage performances.

"We are working to implement predator identification into our ambassador training program," said 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command SHARP Program Manager, Maj. Joanna Robisch. "Our focus, historically, has been on assisting victims. By teaching what a predator looks for we hope to help people to not become a victim."

Unfortunately individuals in positions of trust can, and have been, the predator within our military ranks. Once such instance is Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen who, at the time, was an advocate for victims of sexual abuse in Fort Hood, Texas. Ultimately he was found guilty on 16 counts during his court martial in March 2015 resulting in 24 months confinement, reduction of rank to E-1 and given a dishonorable discharge.

The term "toxic leadership" has also been in the spotlight recently. Strand shared an interesting thought on the matter and how it relates to sexual assault and/or harassment in the military.

"If I'm a sex offender, the first thing I want to do is be in a unit with a toxic leader," he said. "Because, I'm going to befriend that toxic leader. I am going to do everything that toxic leader wants me to do. I am going to be that perfect soldier so I'm endeared to that person. I also want to be in that unit because if I commit a crime, I know in that environment there is a high likelihood that that soldier won't trust the leadership enough to report it and that's exactly where I want to be as an offender."

So where do we stand? The Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military was provided to Congress on May 1, 2017, and may be found here:

During a Pentagon press conference with Navy Rear Adm. Ann M. Burkhardt, director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, the report revealed that there were 14,900 service members assaulted last year. While these numbers are down from the 2014 report, it also shows that more victims are coming forward. Most recently one in three victims report being assaulted compared to one in four in 2014 and only one in 14 a decade ago.

But more work lies ahead, she said.

"[The] bond is broken when there's sexual violence or harassment; even worse when this behavior is condoned or ignored," the director said. "Sexual assault violates the core values of our military and must never be tolerated. We have more work to do to advance dignity and respect for each and every person. It is essential to military readiness."

Strand further explained that holding people accountable from the bottom up and top down is the only way to weed out problems. How do we do it?

"I think it has to be done in small groups," he stated. "The formula we had in the late '70s and early '80s to get after racism; we had people trained in every unit that learned how to facilitate critical conversations, to really facilitate bringing out some of the real deep thoughts, real beliefs and then examining them and helping to look at them in a healthy way."

The SHARP Ambassador program takes a "train the trainer" approach ultimately creating those small groups within the unit. If you see something, say something. You have to intervene.

The next Area IV Ambassador Training is scheduled for July 16-18. For additional information, or to register, contact the 19th ESC SHARP office at DSN: 763-4067/4068/4069.

Area IV SARC: Mr. Eric Alleyne- 763-4069

19th ESC SARC: MSG Ramsey Flores 763-4067

If you are in Korea, but not on Camp Henry, please contact the 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline.

Commercial: 0503-363-5700

DSN: 158

We will identify someone to assist you.

If you are located outside the Korean peninsula please contact the DoD SAFE Helpline at 1-877-995-5247.

Text* 202-470-5546 (outside the U.S.)

Text* 55-247 (inside the U.S.)

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