The Military's Dirty Little Secret: Military Sexual Trauma Policies and Implications for Survivors

Jessica Bailey Marie Vanburen, Eastern Kentucky University


Military sexual trauma is a phenomenon that has been happening since women were allowed to serve beside men in the military, but it has just recently began to be studied over the last two decades. The United States military has implemented various policies that attempt to prevent and respond to this issue. In this study, a qualitative research approach is taken to assess the current policies that the United States military implements as compared with the “real-life” narratives of the experiences of victims who have experienced a military sexual trauma. Using an integrated theoretical frame, I draw on Agamben’s homo sacer and Bernstein’s critique of carceral feminism to explain the recent policy implications by the United States military as they impact victims. Findings indicate there is a substantial detachment between the official military rape and sexual assault policies, and the stories posted by survivors of military sexual trauma. As a result, I argue that the decision to prosecute should be taken out of the commanders’ jurisdiction and instead cases of rape and sexual assault be tried within civilian courts in order to better protect the victims.