As a therapist, author, and treatment expert in the area of problem sexual behavior and sexual addiction, I have been privileged to provide multiple educational programs for US Military Chaplains and Military Family Advocacy therapists worldwide, trainings specifically related to the growing concern of problem sexual behavior by US servicemen and women — both on and off base.
The current drama now playing out in the media related to US Secret Service agents’ procurement of prostitutes while on assignment is without question the tip of the iceberg of a concern that is both under-recognized and misunderstood by both military leaders and the general public.
I believe that it is neither salacious nor unpatriotic to hold an honest discussion of the increasing, documented incidents of inappropriate problem sexual behavior occurring among the ranks of our servicemen and women on a daily basis.
While the majority of our military demonstrate great respect for their role and fully understand what it means to represent our nation both nationally and abroad, there are more than a few troubled soldiers, sailors, and officers who regularly engage in problem sexual behavior both on and off duty. This issue has a profound affect on the morality, dignity, and long-term health of our armed forces.
The problem of inappropriate sexual acting out in the military is not simply one of a few servicemen “blowing off steam” when on short-term leave — activity that has a time honored rite of passage aura. Of much greater concern are issues related to those active servicemen and women who experience profound sexual harassment and rape by fellow servicemen, along with the abuse of porn and prostitutes via military owned computers, laptops, and smartphones.
Having been tasked to train on these bases, which involved being both a listener and an educator, I have been told firsthand of the underreported concerns of:
- Male on male rape in the barracks as a show of power
- Sexual harassment and rape of female sailors and soldiers, both on and off base
- Military professionals downloading Internet porn onto government owned computers while on duty
- Officers procuring prostitutes for soldiers and sailors when on leave, making sure each man has a room, key, and woman waiting for him during off base leave.
- Officers encouraging soldiers to use porn and masturbation as a means of relieving the stress of active duty, which can bring long-term consequences related to PTSD and post-discharge trauma resolution
- Inadequately trained mental health professionals tasked to treat and manage servicemen who have sexually offended on base and been moved to the brig
- Rape and sexual harassment carried out off base – a problem with profoundly negative consequences for those bases outside the US having to then deal with the anger and frustration of local communities, who are left with a bitter taste for our very presence in their countries
These issues are not new and they are not unique to this time, but much like the kinds of problems that occur and go unmentioned in any “looking-good” family, they are swept under the rug, deferred to the mission at hand, or, worse, handled idiosyncratically depending on who is in command that day, in that location, etc.
This moment may well be one in which we all shake our heads, look the other way, and view what happened in the Secret Service as an isolated, unique problem that will go away when “these individuals” are disciplined.
But I challenge the powers that be within our military, as an invited professional who has spent a great deal of time training those tasked to support our servicemen and women, to view this incident as a wake-up sign. This moment provides an opening to review overall military policy and procedure related to problem sexual behavior, while internally but openly addressing the larger problem of sexual acting out within the US Military.