Movember and men’s health

  • Published
  • By Special Victims' Counsel Office, McChord Field

November is upon us, and with the changing of the leaves and college football kicking into high gear, we also begin to see a rise in mustaches.  “Movember,” as it is known, is a campaign seeking to raise awareness for various men’s health issues, specifically certain cancers, by, well … growing mustaches.  A similar campaign, “No Shave November,” also works to raise awareness about cancers affecting men during the same month and encourages men not to shave and to grow beards instead. While this is not as steeped in military tradition as “Mustache March” in which Airmen honor Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, a triple ace from the World War II and Vietnam eras, military installations do see a noticeable rise in crumb catchers each November.

This year, members of the Special Victims’ Counsel (SVC) community wanted to highlight another societal health issue facing men, which might not be discussed as much as various forms of cancer affecting men or other gender-specific health concerns: sexual assault.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), approximately one out of 33 men, or three percent, have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. RAINN’s research also estimates that one out of every 10 rape victims are men. Additionally, according to the DoD Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, 980 men identified as an alleged victim of sexual assault (which included rape, aggravated sexual assault/sexual assault, and abusive sexual contact) and filed unrestricted reports of these crimes during that year. This number accounted for 18 percent of the unrestricted reports filed in FY 2019. Additionally, another 440 men filed restricted reports of the same type of misconduct, which accounts for 21 percent of restricted reports filed over that same period.

While each victim of sexual assault may face similar perceived barriers for reporting sexual assault incidents, men may confront barriers differently than women based on various social expectations. These potential differences pose challenges for those advocating for male survivors of sexual assault.

Many perceived barriers exist about men reporting sexual assault. While a fear of not being believed and various control dynamics exist, men often experience perceived barriers that do not affect women in the same way and may discourage male victims from reporting. Such challenges include a view that male victims are less likely than female victims to receive appropriate support. Recognizing challenges specific to male survivors of sexual assault is something an SVC is trained to do in order to better represent their clients in the military justice process. 

SVCs can help alleviate these challenges by educating and advising victims about the military justice and administrative action processes, including the differences between restricted and unrestricted reporting. SVCs do this while providing independent legal representation to qualifying victims of certain Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) offenses relating to sexual assault. Beginning Dec. 1, 2020, SVC services will expand to certain offenses related to domestic violence.

SVCs are able to independently represent clients because they have a separate chain of command from both the perpetrator and victim, allowing the SVC to advocate without fear of negative repercussions from those chains of command or any perception of bias.

SVCs also ensure their clients, including male victims, have a voice that can be heard at all levels of authority and decision-making. This includes advising clients on providing input regarding who maintains investigative and prosecutorial jurisdiction over the alleged offenses and providing disposition input on what a client believes should happen in a case to the reviewing authorities on a case.

As we continue to work to eliminate all forms of sexual assault from society and our ranks, we must remember that the challenges each victim faces when confronting their assault are not always the same. While it may not be the first thing you think about when you hear “Movember” or “No Shave November,” male sexual assault is a societal health issue deserving more attention and awareness than we typically see. While the process of confronting sexual assault can be overwhelming to victims, the SVC Program is a resource available for all victims, including male victims, to help navigate that process.

You can contact the McChord SVC Office at (253) 982-6741, or speak in person at 100 Col Joe Jackson Blvd, Ste. 3021, McChord Field, Washington, 98438.

(No Department of Defense endorsement expressed nor implied for either Movember or No Shave November.  Dress and appearance standards still apply)