A Seattle woman, who fought allowing military recruiters in local high schools, is the lead author of a report that compares the behaviors of recruiters with the behaviors of sexual predators.
Amy Hagopian, assistant professor with the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health concludes military recruiters are a “threat to the health of adolescents.”
Hagopian says, “A review of the medical literature suggests military service is associated with disproportionately poor health for young people. The youngest recruits have the greatest number of mental disorders in the U.S. military, including alcohol abuse, anxiety syndromes, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The UW published this report about Hagopian’s research, done with Kathy Barker, PhD. It is presented as a commentary in the January 2011 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, under the title “Should We End Military Recruiting in High Schools as a Matter of Child Protection and Public Health?”
Ending military recruiting in schools is something Hagopian and Barker have been trying to do for a long time. In 2005, Garfield High School became the first in the United States to ban military recruiters from their campus. Hagopian was Garfield’s PTSA president at the time and led that effort. Now Hagopian and Barker believe recruiters exhibit behaviors similar to predatory grooming when they enter high schools.
“Grooming behavior is defined as the process by which a child is befriended by a would-be abuser in an attempt to gain the child’s confidence and trust,” Hagopian says.
The Army calls the professor’s claim that military recruiters act like child predators “outrageous and offensive.”
“To say that a military recruiter has the same way of approaching young people that a twisted sexual predator does, is highly offensive and blatantly wrong,” says Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Smith says there are about 9,000 Army recruiters working across the country and if anything they serve as role models and mentors to students.
“We show America’s youth what the core values of the Army are – physical fitness, moral fitness, the kinds of behaviors that we expect of our soldiers,” Smith says. “To say these men and women are somehow equivalent to a sex predator is just wrong headed.”
He adds most of the military’s recruits are not students directly out of high school, they’re over 24 years old.