FREDERICKSBURG, VA. — A professor of psychology at the University of Mary Washington is helping the military overcome what some have called an epidemic of sexual assaults.
Christopher Kilmartin is heading to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado next month to share his expertise on men’s issues and gender violence with academy students. He’ll teach courses titled “Interpersonal Violence” and “Men and Masculinity” for one year, the Free Lance-Star reported.
Wilbur Scott, a professor of sociology in the Behavioral Sciences Department at the Air Force Academy, said Kilmartin’s expertise is needed.
“Everyone in the military knows it’s time to get serious about sexual assault,” he said. “That’s where Chris comes in.”
As the problem has become more visible, Scott said the chair of the department wanted to expand offerings in education of gender-based violence.
“I want them to have a knowledge base about gender issues and a basis of what intervention strategies might be effective in preventing assault,” Scott said about the cadets.
A bill before Congress is seeking to take the power to punish sexual assault from commanders and allow prosecutors to handle it. Kilmartin said the bill is a step in the right direction, but he would like to see more resources funneled into sexual assault prevention.
Kilmartin said that the students in the Air Force Academy are the future leaders of the military, and educating them is the first step in changing the culture around sexual harassment and assault. Commanders, and others in power, need to change the way they interact with cadets, he said.
“If a commander tolerates sexual harassment or partakes in calling women names, it is 6 percent more likely that a sexual assault will occur under his command,” Kilmartin said.
Kilmartin worked with the U.S. Naval Academy between 2008 and 2011 to revise sexual assault and harassment prevention curriculum. He also has worked with the Army on the same topic.
“There are big pockets of the military where people don’t take this seriously,” he said. “And they don’t realize that it happens to a lot of men, as well.”
He said more attention needs to be paid to prevention.
“We say boys will be boys, but there is something we can actually do,” he said. “We can raise boys differently. Violent ones can be held accountable for behaviors and amplify the healthy male voices.”