The growing problem of sexual assaults in the U.S. military has led to arguments in Congress, where lawmakers disagree over how to confront the issue. Top military officers have also weighed in on the topic. But in Australia, where the military has its own sexual assault problem, the army chief has a simple solution: “Show moral courage and take a stand.”
Those are the words of Lt. Gen. David Morrison, who is becoming something of an Internet celebrity for delivering a blunt, fury-fueled speech in which he categorically dismisses the idea that sexism of any type has a place in the military.
“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept,” the general says. He later added that it’s time for all members of the service to protect the legacy they leave to the next generation.
“If you’re not up to it, find something else to do with your life,” the general says. “There is no place for you amongst this band of brothers and sisters.”
A video of Morrison’s speech was released this week by the Australian Army, which last year formed an independent Defense Abuse Response Taskforce to help it cope with sexual and other abuse.
News emerged this week of a military “Internet sex ring,” as the Sydney Morning Herald reports, in which male army officers and employees of a defense contractor emailed one another videos and photos of naked women, along with “derogatory comments about their conquests,” the paper reports.
At times, the men would also provide contact info, urging others to try to seduce the women. Australia’s News.com reports that some of the women are members of the Australian Defense Force; others are civilians and government employees. The group of men called themselves the Jedi Council.
With a stern, unblinking stare, Morrison used his 3-minute video to lay out why such behavior denigrates the service, all veterans who have served in the past, and the Australian people, as well.
“Those who think that it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleagues have no place in this army,” he says. “On all operations female officers and soldiers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us, maintaining our capability now and into the future.”
“If that does not suit you, then get out,” Morrison says. “You may find another employer where your attitude and behavior is acceptable, but I doubt it. The same goes for those who think that toughness is built on humiliating others.”
Morrison backed that statement up this week, suspending three people identified as ringleaders of the group that emailed the inappropriate images and messages. More than 100 people are reportedly being investigated in the case.
“I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values. And I need every one of you to support me in achieving this,” Morrison tells his audience.
The video speech has won the respect of many people commenting online, with YouTube viewer loganbuchanan writing, “Why can’t America be like this.”
Others have praised the general for delivering a clear and strong message, as well as his impressive ability to forego blinking for long periods of time.
On his official bio page, Morrison says that his hobbies include “remembering when he used to play golf, staying fit, cooking and reading. He is married to Gayle and has three adult sons from a previous marriage.”
In the United States, the rise of sexual assaults in the military has prompted outrage among the public and in Congress, where a senator recently blocked the promotion of an Air Force general who overruled a sexual assault finding against one of her officers.
And Thursday, the House approved “a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for a member of the armed services convicted of rape or sexual assault in a military court,” the AP reports.
But another proposed change, a bipartisan bill that would let military attorneys who are not in the victim’s chain of command decide whether to bring a case to trial, has faltered in Congress. The House will not vote on the measure, and the Senate Armed Services Committee rejected a similar measure earlier this week.
Top military officers and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have urged against that measure, reports the news site Military.com.