Sexual assault is rampant in the military according to a new Pentagon report. The Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office found more than 26,000 instances of sexual assault in 2012, leading to a rise of 6 percent in reported instances. Thousands of instances are unreported though, leaving some of the numbers uncertain.
The disparity in the total number of instances of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) compared to those fully reported — where the victim fills out an official report and action is taken — can be seen as being due to victims’ fears of retaliation, including possible discharge from service or being overlooked for a promotion. The new results line up with those seen in a 2011 Pentagon health survey released in April. According to that report, more female service members were willing to come forward about sexual abuse and assault, with roughly one in five women saying they were victims of unwanted sexual contact from another member of the military, but under reporting remains a serious issue.
The rape culture in the military is a microcosm of a more extensive issue permeating other social institutions including colleges, but the United States military is taking a no-tolerance stance on this latest report.
“Sexual assault has no place in the United States military,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. He was speaking in response to the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, the Air Force’s chief of sexual assault prevention. Krusinski was charged with sexual assault.
Little continued. “The American people, including our service members, should expect a culture of absolutely no tolerance for this deplorable behavior that violates not only the law, but basic principles of respect, honor, and dignity in our society and its military.”
ThinkProgress reports high-profile sexual assault scandals are hampering the military’s commitment to this issue.
The government is also moving forward on this issue. President Obama has said he has no tolerance for sexual assault and Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, agrees.
“We’re all outraged and disgusted over these very troubling allegations,” Hagel said in a Pentagon briefing Tuesday.
“We may very well be nearing a stage where the frequency of this crime and the perception there is tolerance of it could very well undermine [the mission],” he continued. “That is unacceptable to me and the leaders of this institution, and it should be unacceptable to anyone associated with the U.S. military.”
Hagel unveiled a strategic plan aiming to combat sexual assault on several levels. The military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) hopes to offer solutions that will “enhance commander accountability, improve response to victims and reassess if the military justice system is properly equipped to handle these cases.”
Congress is also attempting to intervene.
Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) responded to his decree by introducing the Combat Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013.
“It’s inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad this bipartisan legislation is taking meaningful steps to do right by our nation’s heroes,” Murray said in a statement.
The bill will provide all victims a Special Victims’ Counsel to combat post-traumatic stress, move sexual assaults to the general court martial and expand SAPRO’s authority.