This Is Norway's Daring Solution to Ending Sexual Harassment in the Military

ByEsther Gim

There's a dark side of the U.S. military that has increasingly been grabbing headlines: sexual assault.

According to the Department of Defense, there are approximately 19,000 sexual assaults in the military per year, but according to the Pentagon only 1,108 reports were filed in 2013, with just 575 cases processed — not to mention the number of assaults that don't get reported or filed.

Maybe the United States can learn something from the Norwegian military, which is instituting a big change in the way the men and women who fight for their country live: in unisex dorms. That's right. The men and women in the military are sharing rooms.

It's in an experimental phase right now at a northern Norway military base, where two women share a room with four men.

Ulla-Britt Lilleaas, co-author of the report "The Army: The Vanguard, Rear Guard and Battlefield of Equality," reported that the military women stated they felt like "one of the boys" when occupying the same living space. Others said sharing a room made gender differences less relevant.

"You have to be a team here, and then you have to live together in order to be able to trust in one another," one of the women was reported as saying. Co-author Dag Ellingsen further stated when men and women live together, the "us and them, boys against the girls" mentality was gone.

This isn't the first bold move undertaken by the Norwegian military. There's a one-day-per-week vegetarian food rule to fight climate change, and male recruits can also grow their hair long if it's kept back in a ponytail or braids like that of the female recruits.

Would this solution work for the United States? It's difficult to imagine so, and such a move would raise big questions around privacy and personal space. But one thing's certain: It's time for the U.S. to think of a solution.