A Navy ship commander was fired recently after being accused of sexual harassment by several female crew members. Although sexual harassment training is everywhere in military life, harassment continues to occur. But what do you do if it happens to you?
Dear Ms. Vicki,
I think I’m being sexually harassed. My company commander keeps putting his hands on me. He likes to touch my shoulders or my back.
For example, when I’m on the computer, he will walk up behind me and put his hands on my shoulders and rub them like he’s giving me a massage. A couple of times, he’s rubbed my back.
I try to move my posture in a way to let him know to get his hands off me. It’s like he doesn’t get it. He has never said anything sexual to me, but I don’t like the way he touches me. I don’t want to get in trouble or be blacklisted, but this is getting very creepy.
I joined the Army so I could be successful, not to have an affair with some creepy old man who is at least 35 years old. If you were in my shoes, how would you handle it? Would you report it? To whom? I’m afraid to talk to anyone in the unit about this. I don’t trust anyone.
Fear of Failure
Dear Fear of Failure,
You shouldn’t have a fear of failure, though you have every right to be concerned about reprisal for reporting your concerns. Listen, your commander is out of line with all of the touching and massaging. He knows it’s unprofessional and crossing serious boundaries. I won’t belabor the point. There are unit reps that you could speak with, but it sounds like you are uncomfortable discussing this with anyone in your unit.
There are two things I want you to do. First, document dates and times of these occurrences. Next, speak with a Victims Advocate, who is in a paid position and there to offer guidance and support. They would let you know exactly what you should do and how you should handle this situation. The Victims Advocates are located in the ACS, or Family Resource building. They can speak with you by phone or meet with you at a different location from your unit. Let me know what you decide to do and how I can help you further.
Dear Ms. Vicki,
I am married to someone in the military ... and she refuses to set up an allotment. So what do I do?
Your wife has to be willing to set up a monthly allotment for you. She cannot be forced to set up an allotment. On the other hand, she is the servicemember and you are her family member. She cannot leave you destitute and without any resources.
What’s going on? Are you working? Are you separated? Is she stationed at another assignment in a different location? Again, she should be helping out financially in any case, but it doesn’t have to be in the form of an allotment. You may want to consider involving her commanders if this has been an ongoing issue. I hope this helps.
Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, is married to an active-duty Soldier and has three sons. She has a Master's of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and currently works as a therapist with military servicemembers and their families. She provides services for a wide array of concerns such as combat stress, PTSD, couples and marital problems, depression, grief and loss, stress and coping.
Ms. Vicki also writes an advice column "Dear Ms. Vicki" that appears in the Washington Times, the Fort Campbell Courier and the Heidelberg Herald Post. Ms. Vicki also hosts an internet radio show and blogs on her community site with the Washington Times. If you want to ask Ms. Vicki for advice about your military life, please email her at AskMsVicki@military-inc.com.
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