Tue | Jan 25, 2022

Reports of sexual assault in military spike

Published:Friday | May 3, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan listens during a House Appropriations subcommittee on budget hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 1.


Reports of military sexual assaults jumped by 13 per cent last year, but an anonymous survey of service members released on Thursday suggests that the problem is vastly larger.

The survey results found that more than 20,000 service members said they experienced some type of sexual assault, but only a third of those filed a formal report.

The survey number is about 37 per cent higher than two years ago when one was last done, fuelling frustration within the department and outrage on Capitol Hill.

“I am tired of the statement I get over and over from the chain of command: ‘We got this, madam, we got this.’ You don’t have it!” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, shouted during a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Thursday for Army Gen. James McConville. “You’re failing us.”

McConville has been nominated to be the next chief of staff of the army, and that service saw a spike of more than 18 per cent in the number of sexual assault reports filed last year. The Marine Corps had the largest jump, at 23 per cent, while the navy saw a seven per cent increase, and the air force was up by about four per cent.

The Pentagon releases a report every year on the number of sexual assaults reported by troops. But because sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, the department sends out an anonymous survey every two years to get a clearer picture of the problem.

The increase in assaults has triggered another round of new Pentagon programmes and initiatives to try to reduce misconduct.

Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, told reporters on Thursday that the latest numbers are “disheartening and it personally makes me angry,” but he said he’s “not without hope”.

The survey found that young and junior enlisted women between 17 and 20 were most likely to experience sexual assault. In the vast majority of the cases, the alleged perpetrator was a military man, often near the same rank as the victim and usually someone she knows. The report also found that nearly two-thirds of all incidents involved alcohol use by the victim and/or the offender.