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Report: Military
commanders perpetrate antigay harassment

Report: Military
commanders perpetrate antigay harassment


A new study shows that antigay harassment by people of authority is higher in the U.S. military than in the general population.

A new study published this month in the journal Military Psychology shows that U.S. military commanders often perpetrate or witness antigay harassment and those who are being harassed often fail to report it.

"Antigay harassment remains a daily reality for our men and women in uniform," said C. Dixon Osburn, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gay service personnel. "Pentagon leaders have failed to implement their Anti-Harassment Action Plan and have openly acknowledged that they have no plans to more aggressively enforce measures to protect service members from antigay harassment."

The study was conducted and written by professor Bonnie Moradi of the psychology department at University of Florida and was commissioned by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was designed to compare data obtained in a 2000 Defense Department survey of antigay harassment to parallel incidents in the civilian population.

The military poll had surveyed over 71,000 active duty service members from 38 randomly selected installations and found that 80% had heard offensive speech, including derogatory names and jokes, targeted at gays during the previous year, and 5% had witnessed a violent antigay assault. Researchers involved in the current study sought to assess whether the high incidence of antigay harassment reflected similar patterns in the general population or might instead be attributable to norms or policies that were specific to military culture.

Moradi modeled a poll after the military survey. She conducted it using a civilian sample of 196 young adults, all drawn from a college in the American South, whose demographic profile roughly matched the military sample. The answers of these 196 respondents were then compared to those of 200 randomly selected participants in the Defense Department survey.

The study found that compared with civilian respondents, a greater proportion of military respondents who reported a harassment incident indicated that a senior person perpetrated the harassment. Among the civilians who reported witnessing a harassment incident, 7% indicated that a person of authority committed such abuse, while among military respondents who reported witnessing an incident, 15% of respondents claimed a supervisor or commander had done so.

"Until official policy stops targeting gays," said Aaron Belkin, director of CSSMM, "it will be difficult for commanders to crack down on antigay harassment. The institution simply cannot make a serious dent in the rate of abuse as long is it continues to fire people simply for saying they are gay." (The Advocate)

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