Despite the rise in national attention for sexual assault occurring in the United States military, members of University of Wisconsin’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps said preventing sexual assault has been at the forefront of their education.
In a statement released Tuesday, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said she is co-sponsoring a bill to address such harassment in the military and in campus ROTC programs.
Baldwin voiced her support for the Military Justice Improvement Act in a statement and said she “would eliminate inherent bias and conflicts of interest which currently deter victims from reporting sexual assault crimes in the first place.”
“Just like we must ensure that our new officers from the service academies meet our highest standards, we must ask the same of those commissioned in ROTC programs across America,” Baldwin said.
Members of the University of Wisconsin’s ROTC program said strides have already been made to better promote awareness of sexual harassment among members.
Brittaney Kendall, a member of Army ROTC who also participated in basic training this summer, said the military’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, or S.H.A.R.P., is prominent in their education.
“Every single day [in basic training] they talk about S.H.A.R.P.,” Kendall said. “I could tell early on that they were really trying to emphasize the program and the consequences of getting caught sexually harassing or assaulting someone.”
Kendall added the severity of the consequences, which include being removed from the military, are consistent with the offense.
She said required military science classes on campus for the ROTC program also require the completion of an online program through S.H.A.R.P.
The program shows situational videos of people being sexually assaulted and provides prevention and response advice, Kendall said.
Capt. Scott Paeth, an aerospace studies assistant professor and campus Air Force recruiting officer, said Air Force ROTC on campus has not had any reports of sexual assault, but they do the same training as active duty Air Force members on prevention and handling sexual assault situations.
Megan Ritzert, a link commander in Air Force ROTC, acknowledged instances of sexual assault on the national level, but emphasized the training that ROTC implements to prevent assault.
“Obviously, there’s been news on [sexual assault] military-wide, so we’re really cognizant of it, and actually we do a lot of training to prevent it and learn how to deal with it,” Ritzert said. “We try to train our cadets so they can be better leaders and make those changes themselves.”
Ritzert added training is a coed event, although the gender ratio is not equal. Forty percent of her class, and 28 percent of the whole detachment, is female.
“Everyone here is like family,” Ritzert said. “I’ve lived with a bunch of cadets, girls and guys, and I have not felt an ounce of any discrepancy between gender at all.”
Paeth added that only about 20 percent of active duty Air Force is female in comparison to their rate, and that the program sees similar retention rates for men and women.