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Movember and Men’s Health

Male service members in an office building.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chester Rafan, left, special victims' paralegal, gives a cupcake to Master Sgt. Dominic Durgin-Rodriguez, 60th Comptroller Squadron first sergeant, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Rafan handed out cupcakes to raise awareness about the special victims' counsel and bring attention to male sexual assault. (Courtesy photo.)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- 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 sometimes known, is a campaign seeking to raise awareness for various men’s health issues, specifically certain cancers, by growing mustaches. While this is not as steeped in military tradition as “Mustache March,” in which Airmen honor Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, military installations do see a noticeable rise in crumb catchers each November. This year, members of the Special Victims’ Counsel 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, & Incest National Network, approximately 1 out of 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. RAINN’s research also estimates that 1 out of every 10 rape victims are men. The Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military captured that 980 men identified as an alleged victim of sexual assault and filed unrestricted reports of these crimes during that year. This number accounted for 18% of the unrestricted reports filed in fiscal year 2019. Additionally, another 440 men filed restricted reports of sexual assault, which accounts for 21% of restricted reports filed over that same period.

While each victim of sexual assault may face similar perceived barriers for reporting, men may face different barriers than women due to social expectations. These potential differences pose challenges for those advocating for male survivors of sexual assault. A fear of not being believed in addition to various control dynamics that often exist may discourage male victims from reporting. Such challenges also 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 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 for 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. 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 attention and awareness. 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.

For more information, you can contact the Travis AFB SVC Office at (707) 424-1097 located at 540 Airlift Drive, Building 381, Room D-207.