Women are some of the most visible members of the military but tend to be the most marginalized. Even though women have been serving our country since the American Revolution, there are still some hurdles women face before, during, and after enlistment.
According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, in February of 2018 16% of all enlisted troops in the American military were women. Because this number shows a wide gender gap, the personnel chiefs from the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps have been trying to work on recruiting more women forces. However, this hasn’t been going as planned, and some believe it is due to the treatment of women service members.
Primarily, women troops suffer from sexual assault and mental illnesses. Due in part of public beliefs and attitudes around these maladies, women troops aren’t getting the medical care they need, and most feel shame when it comes to admitting they need treatment.
Consider this: 25% of all women in the military who seek medical treatment from the Department of Veteran Affairs report experiencing at least one sexual assault in the military. Comparatively, 1% of males say the same. However, this statistic may be higher as this is only from a group of women who have decided to seek treatment with the VA. There could be plenty of active duty or veteran women who are suffering in silence.
Within the past few years, mental health and suicide have become increasingly prevalent within the veteran community. Mental illness is incredibly stigmatized within members of the military, causing veterans to be afraid to come forward and seek treatment. This leads to an increase in substance abuse and in some cases, suicide. Coupled with the fact that women veterans may be afraid to come forward and report their sexual trauma, it can be very easy for these women to suffer in silence.
There needs to be more awareness around not only the role women play in the armed forces but the silent challenges they face.