(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

New DoD policy could change how the military approaches harassment

Caitlin M. Kenney
February 09, 2018 - 4:00 pm

According to the Pentagon, “harassment has no place in our military,” and their new policy on protecting service members from harassment is an attempt to eliminate it among the ranks.

“This policy provides a formal, binding foundation to work from but it’s just the beginning,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said to reporters Thursday about the policy’s release.

“It’s a framework for military services to address unacceptable behaviors such as offensive jokes, stereotyping, violence and discrimination,” she said.

In 60 days, the military services and DoD components will have to provide the Pentagon with plans on how they will be implementing the policy and standards that meet with the expectations of the policy.

In a statement Thursday evening the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), an advocacy organization for military women, said they welcome the new harassment prevention policy and of its inclusion of online sexual harassment, bullying and hazing, referring to the Marines United scandal.

“Online harassment is a manifestation of a larger military cultural problem that is permissive of sexual harassment and assault and whose underlying roots remain deeply embedded in misogyny,” the statement said. “The entire culture must be addressed if a wholesale change is to occur, one where all service members, men and women, are treated with dignity and respect.“

There were previous harassment policies by the military services and DoD components but they varied in the reporting chain and in tracking data, according to White. The new policy aims to make sure their standards are the same.

“So, what this policy does is it provides a framework so that there’s a commonality with respect to tracking offenders, how we keep data, and how what services have to be provided, to include you have to have anonymous reporting. That has to be possible,” White said.

“The point of the harassment policy is to ensure that we have a safe workplace. No one should feel intimidated,” White also said to reporters. “No one should feel as though they can’t do their job without being discriminated against, and this also goes to hazing. This goes to political beliefs, this goes to religious beliefs.”

How well the services and DoD implement the new policy may be determined by their ability to keep people accountable.

SWAN concluded their statement by saying that “Eliminating harassment, bullying and hazing is a long-term goal that requires constant command attention, transparency of investigations, and consistently holding perpetrators—military and civilian employees—accountable for their actions. Command vigilance in preventing retaliation is imperative. SWAN looks forward to seeing the service's implementation instructions when they are published."