A group of active and retired US troops have gathered in freezing temperatures outside the Defense Department near Washington to protest against sexual harassment and assault in the US military.
About two dozen protesters at Monday’s event in front of the Pentagon expressed support for a proposed legislation in Congress that would make it easier for victims to report sexual misconduct in the US armed forces.
The protesters, most of them women and none in uniform, carried placards that read “Denial is not a policy”, “Stop the retaliation”, and “#MeTooMilitary,” a reference to the social media campaign with the #MeToo hashtag denouncing sexual assault in the workplace.
The rally comes amid an ongoing wave of revelations about sexual harassment in the US, which has toppled a number of powerful men in entertainment, politics, business and the media.
Sexual assault in the US military has long been a massive problem, with service members reporting more than 20,000 allegations of sexual assault at military installations over the past four years.
In a report released in November, the US military’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office (SAPRO) said 20,300 sexual assault cases have been filed since 2013.
But many victims never report incidents, so the real number is likely far higher, according to a Pentagon report that also found victims often face retaliation for coming forward.
US Defense Department spokesman Commander Gary Ross said such protests emphasize the Pentagon’s “continued efforts to eliminate sexual harassment and assault from the military.”