Columns

2015 Reports of Sexual Assault in Military Nearly as High as 2014

(Photo: Star Wars/Facebook)

The Defense Department released its tally of sexual assault cases for 2015, a report finding the stats slightly down from the previous year but still high compared to years before that.

The department received 6,083 reports of sexual assault allegations involving service members; 5,240 of those involved a service member as the victim as well. Eighty percent of those reports came from women. In the 2007 fiscal year, there were 2,846 reports; by 2014, that was 6,131.

Men reporting that they had been sexually assaulted were more likely than women to consider the incident hazing, were more likely to have been assaulted by multiple offenders, were more likely to be assaulted during duty hours, and were more likely to have not been consuming alcohol at the time.

Report rates were fairly equally distributed among the services, with the Army and Marines having slightly higher rates than the Navy and Air Force.

Out of 657 formal complaints of sexual harassment, 74 percent of the incidents that were substantiated happened while on duty and 96 percent of the offenders were male.

“Our efforts are having an impact, but there are still many hurdles to overcome,” Army Maj. Gen. Camille Nichols, director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said in a statement. “Reporting the crime is essential for our ability to bring care and advocacy to survivors, and hold offenders appropriately accountable.”

“This is the first year our annual report has been organized around specific program efforts,” Nichols said. “Each one demands our most critical focus and will help the department continue to drive action moving forward.”

The DoD also conducted a user satisfaction survey this year to find how victims’ experience was with the military justice system. Seventy-seven percent said they would recommend reporting sexual assault after having gone through the process. Eighty percent were satisfied with the reporting experience.

“The report shows a sustained high level of reporting, which is critical in order to connect victims with needed service and all the perpetrators accountable,” press secretary Peter Cook told reporters Thursday. “It notes climate survey results that indicate that 87 percent of those who witnessed a situation they believe could lead to sexual assault took action to intervene.”

Last week, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter released a retaliation strategy “which provides a framework for strengthening support for those who experience retaliation in connection with reporting sexual assault or harassment and for clarifying the retaliation response process.”

“The report shows the value of persistent intensive efforts to combat a problem that senior leadership from the secretary on down fully engaged in attacking,” Cook said. “It is a difficult challenge for the military and other institutions in this country, but it is one under the secretary’s leadership we’re determined to take on and I would note that other institutions from higher education and also other federal agencies, even the United Nations, have looked to the Department of Defense’s programs as potential models for their own efforts.”