Military Sexual Assaults Increasing Despite DoD Efforts to Stem Tide

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Military Sexual Assaults Increasing Despite DoD Efforts to Stem Tide

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Alleged Wrongdoing by Assault Prevention Personnel ‘Sickening’

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON — Despite DoD’s greater emphasis on preventing sexual assault, the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact among active duty troops increased to about 26,000 cases in 2012 compared with an earlier estimate of 19,000, according to a recent report.

The estimate, derived from a confidential survey, was released last month as part of DoD’s annual report on sexual assaults in the military. In total, DoD leaders estimated from the 2012 survey of active-duty forces that 6.1% of women and 1.2% of men were victimized by unwanted sexual contact.

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pencil_white.jpgOpinion poll:  Has military leadership done everything possible to prevent military sexual assault? Please click here to participate in this month’s U.S. Medicine readership poll.

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Dismay over those growing numbers was heightened by the arrest on sexual battery charges of the Air Force’s top official in charge of sexual assault prevention and, just a few days later, the announced investigation of a sexual assault prevention coordinator at Fort Hood, TX, for alleged pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates. 

 “This department may be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception that there is tolerance of it could very well undermine our ability to effectively carry out the mission and to recruit and retain the good people we need,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said at a news conference. “That is unacceptable to me and the leaders of this institution. And it should be unacceptable to everyone associated with the United States military.”

President Obama met with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in an effort to resolve the growing problem of military sexual assault.

While the number of sexual assaults is estimated to be as high as 26,000, DoD data indicate that in FY 2012, only 3,374 actual reports were filed of unwanted sexual contact involving troops as victims or subjects. That was an increase from the 3,192 reports received in FY 2011.

“When you compare the survey results, the prevalence figures, with the actual reports, the victims that make the tough step of coming forward and filing a restricted or unrestricted report to an authority, it shows that sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime,” Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, director of DoD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office said at the news conference.

Hagel said last month that he was introducing a new series of actions to enhance DoD’s sexual assault prevention efforts.

“I’m directing the military services to align their programs with a revised sexual assault prevention and response strategic plan,” he said. “By clearly defining priorities, objectives, tasks, responsibilities, this plan and its effective implementation will help ensure that the DoD’s ongoing initiatives to reduce and ultimately eliminate sexual assault are being closely tracked and are achieving their purpose.”

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