NOTE: Jenna Lombardo wrote this to her sisters in the military. However, her advice is solid for men and women in all work environments: So often, the military small unit leadership has turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and sexual assaults. It is only until recently that action is being taken due to the high-ranking incidents that have occurred. Each branch of service has come out with its own method of prevention training. In my opinion, this training is senseless if the leaders who instruct these courses and the students within do not have respect for their female counterparts to begin with. Prevention needs to start with women who stand up for themselves and chose to start a ripple effect. One in three women experiences sexual assault during their military career and very rarely are these incidents dealt with. I am not suggesting that every experience that you encounter should be dealt with by complaining to your chain of command, but as women, we need to put an end to the behavior of men who attempt to take advantage of women and create a foundation for young ladies who come into the military force after us. Women are not fragile or submissive; it is time we stand up for ourselves and for our sisters in arms. (1) Talk to the person directly When the initial sexual harassment incident takes place, ask the person harassing you to stop. If your harasser continues displaying the same behavior, inform your harasser that you plan to file a report if the behavior continues. Some people discontinue their behavior once you threaten to report them. If the harasser fails to stop, you can take further action. Particularly, when I have been firm and obviously not interested in their behavior, it deters them from saying or making any gestures toward me. (2) Find other victims and witnesses Search for other victims of sexual harassment by your harasser. You may find that some other victims have filed complaints in the past. Secure the testimony of any witnesses of your incidents in writing. This helps support your claim. This was particularly helpful for me when I first entered the Marine Corps. I had encountered an instructor in my MOS school who was harassing other young women (E-1/E-2). This instructor made his way to me and said some VERY inappropriate things to me and then began to stalk me. It felt wrong, but I was naïve. I spoke to other women who felt the same and I was the ONE who spoke up and in the end, he was held accountable and eventually court martialed and kicked out. (3) Inform Your Supervisor If talking to your harasser did not stop the harassing behavior, report all incidents to your immediate supervisor. Ask your supervisor for a meeting to explain the situation in person. The reality is that sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. However, do not give up. If your immediate supervisor overlooks it, than that is a leadership failure. Stand your ground and make sure that you are not mistreated in that manner again.
YOU ARE VALUABLE. Don’t let anyone make you think or feel that your intuition is wrong.