‘Not Working’: Sexual Assault In The US Military Still On The Rise Despite Massive Efforts To Prevent It

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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A new Department of Defense (DOD) report shows that reports of experiencing unwanted sexual conduct increased 13% in 2021, continuing a trend of worsening sexual misconduct rates despite the U.S. military’s continued attempts to reduce cases of sexual assault.

The 2021 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, released Thursday, showed the highest estimated sexual assault prevalence for women and the second highest for men since DOD began tracking in 2004, Elizabeth Foster, executive director of the Office of Force Resilience, said at a press conference. Reporting trend lines have climbed steadily upward, according to data from DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Response office (SAPR), in spite of DOD initiatives over the past several years to reduce instances of assault amid heightened pressure from Congress and the U.S. public.

The report found that approximately 19,300 women and 16,600 men in the active duty component reported unwanted sexual contact in 2021, nearly 16,000 more than did in 2018, when the survey was last conducted.

“We have tried so many things in the military … but the numbers say they are not working,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, then head of U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress in 2019. SAPR spending quadrupled to $23.2 million in 2018 from 2008, when the office first stood up, but sexual misconduct metrics have not improved, USA Today reported.

Army leaders told The Associated Press that other efforts, such as a new training program given to recruits immediately on arriving at their first duty station, have helped. Total sexual harassment and assault numbers appear to be declining in 2022, they added.

Sexual assault reports in the Army jumped nearly 26% overall in 2021, accounting for a significant portion of the overall increase compared to 9% in the Air Force, 2% in the Navy and less than 2% in the Marine Corps, officials familiar with the data told the AP. The Army is also facing a worse recruiting environment than the other services, with total recruitment projected to fall 18% to 25% short of its yearly goal by the Sept. 30 deadline.

Army officials told the AP that the marked uptick in sexual misconduct allegations could further suppress recruiting if young people or their parents believe that they will not be protected from sexual assault in the military. (RELATED: US Army Abandons Recruitment Goals, But Not Its Woke Policies)

Trust in the military to protect victims’ privacy, keep them safe and treat them with “dignity and respect” also plummeted, the report showed. Only 34% of women believed the military institution would adequately safeguard their privacy in 2021, compared to 63% in 2018.

On average, women have a 1 in 12 chance of experiencing unwanted sexual contact, and men have a 1 in 67 chance, according to the documents. Only about a fifth of service members who are estimated to have experienced unwanted sexual conduct actually reported the incidents.

The Pentagon clarified that the results “cannot be scientifically compared to prior years’ results,” citing a government-mandated change to the standard method for measuring sexual assault that would skew trend data.

“For decades, feminist social engineers, lawmakers, and high-level Pentagon officials promised that assignments for women in combat arms units such as the infantry would reduce rates of sexual assaults. On the contrary … the opposite has happened,” Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“We are taking unprecedented action to prevent sexual assault and restore the trust of Service members in the military justice process,” Foster said.

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