Stabilization: Influences on the Reporting of Military Sexual Assault

Srimayi L -

Hello everyone! As I mentioned in my last post, I will now discuss the mental health effects of military sexual trauma and cultural differences between the east and west that can influence the incidence and reporting rate of this crime. 

The mental health problems associated with military sexual trauma or with military experience were depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the most prominent out of them. For the western countries I was looking at, all of them except for Norway had mental health effects of military sexual trauma available with a good amount of detail for most of them as well. Some countries even further discussed physical symptoms that arise due to this issue. The eastern countries also all had mentions of mental health effects except for Taiwan. In fact, for India, there was no military sexual assault rate present, but I was able to find a mental health study for their military. 

I have also researched the main cultural differences between the east and west, and they come down to four divisions. First, eastern countries consist of mainly high-context cultures, while western countries are the opposite with mainly low-context cultures. This means that, in eastern cultures, meaning in conversations is derived more from gestures rather than words due to their traditions and practices being unchanged for a long time, allowing them to understand each other through an indirect manner. On the other hand, people in western countries often need to use explicit and direct communication due to people’s backgrounds usually being different and changing. These aspects make people from the east more likely to avoid conflict through their implicit communication, while western people address issues and ideas directly, making them more prone to engage in conflict.

Next, eastern countries are collectivist, while western countries are individualistic. People in eastern collectivist cultures tend to focus on the group goals over their personal ones and form an identity that is closely connected to their group identity to avoid conflict and promote cooperation. This also allows them to maintain their reputation and status within their community as that is a value eastern cultures hold to a high degree. Western individualistic cultures encourage people to assert their opinions and focus on individual achievement more than pursuing a group goal.

Eastern countries put a stress on a hierarchical system, while western countries push for equality in society. In eastern countries, there are often levels of status that have carried on through their history in which each person needs to abide by based on their environment as there is a prominent focus on showing respect. They need to fulfill any responsibilities that this position gives them and address people accordingly based on their position as well. For this reason, people from eastern cultures are often unable to speak freely with or about a person of a higher status than them. In western countries though, the situation is the opposite as many governmental documentations also promote equality as a main value of their country. This has influenced communication in western countries as many people call each other by a first-name basis or talk to others casually. This difference between the two cultures can greatly affect the ability for people to report incidents of military sexual assault.

Lastly, eastern cultures value interpersonal harmony, while western cultures promote assertiveness. This goes back to how each culture addresses conflict. Eastern cultures strongly believe that maintaining peace and harmony within their community is key to preserving relationships within a society. Western cultures encourage people to say their beliefs out loud even if they conflict with the common belief as it can aid individual growth within people. This also makes competition more accepted in western countries.

These cultural differences can heavily impact the reporting rates of eastern and western countries as many victims want to maintain their cultural and societal expectations and values. These varying beliefs also can affect each culture’s view of the issue of military sexual trauma and the resulting mental health effects. I will discuss more about these in future posts. 

As I have finished my data collection, I am working on analyzing my data to make final conclusions about it and present them. I will be doing a T-Test on the military and external sexual assault rates that I have acquired to see if there is a statistically significant difference between the rates of the eastern and western countries. 

Next week, I will describe my progress in this data analysis in more detail.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

– Srimayi

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    Hi Srimayi, great research. I am wondering if all eastern and western cultures fall under either collectivistic or individualistic, or would you consider this classification more of a spectrum?
    Hi Srimayi! It really is interesting that India does not report any data on sexual assault within its military, which I think is a testament to their implicit communication, or even lack of communication or awareness. I was wondering what you were referring to when you said some countries even report physical symptoms beyond the mental health effects?
    Thank you for the question! I would say that this classification is more of a spectrum because the practices of many eastern and western countries don't align fully with either collectivism or individualism but rather more of one side than the other.
    Thank you Natania for the comment! When I was looking at the western countries, they mentioned the mental illnesses that can result from military sexual trauma but some also went further to describe the physical symptoms that can result from this issue. Some physical symptoms mentioned were rapid heartbeats, tension headaches, and nausea.
    Hey Srimayi, great research and project so far! Since eastern cultures put so much pressure on their hierarchal system, would women have to really stay quiet about going through military sexual assault and is there any justice done for women going through such harshness in their society?
    Thank you for the comment! Since eastern cultures tend to follow a hierarchical system, it is possible that not only women but other military personnel in lower positions have difficulty reporting military sexual assault. This is also due to eastern cultures holding interpersonal harmony at a high regard, so victims may have trouble reporting due to not wanting to disturb such group peace and harmony. However, the reporting rates for many countries are increasing significantly each year as this issue is getting more awareness, so this definitely is helping victims get some justice as there are more efforts towards preventing this issue.

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