Sexual assaults are dropping in the military, even as more service members are choosing to report their sexual assaults.
The Department of Defense released its fiscal year 2016 report on sexual assault in the military Monday, finding that one in three service members now choose to report sexual assault, which is up from one in fourteen service members only a decade ago.
“We must eliminate sexual assault in the military,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in a statement. “Our Department cannot tolerate actions that weaken unit cohesion, leadership, or training – the ingredients of combat effectiveness. The increased reporting and decreased prevalence captured in this report reflect higher confidence among our troops in our programs and policies. Every policy and every decision must keep faith with our people and ensure our military is ready to fight. This starts with treating all hands with respect and setting an atmosphere of trust that builds combat readiness. I will not tolerate conduct prejudicial to our values.”
The DOD estimated that 14,900 service members suffered sexual assault, which is down from estimates of 20,200 in 2014.
“We’re encouraged that there was less of this horrible crime in 2016. However, there are still too many people experiencing a sexual assault,” said Rear Admiral Ann Burkhardt, director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at the Pentagon. “We will continue to provide first-class support to those who have been victimized and further evolve our prevention efforts to stop the crime before it occurs.”
For women, the rate dropped from 4.9 percent to 4.3 percent. For men, the rate moved from 0.9 percent to 0.6 percent.
Notably, the report found that LGBT service members were at a greater risk for both sexual assault and sexual harassment.
A senior defense official told The Virginian-Pilot in advance of the report’s release that sexual assault victims are still all too often mistreated by colleagues.
“That’s a cultural issue we still have to get after,” the official said.
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