Reports Of Sexual Assault In The Military Continue To Rise, Pentagon Survey Finds

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Reports of sexual assault in the military went up about 1% in 2022, including a sharp spike in the Air Force and a drop in the Army that brought the overall increase down, according to a report released Thursday.

The 2022 report does not indicate whether the actual prevalence of sexual assault increased and doesn’t yield meaningful statistical results, Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (DOD SAPRO) officials told reporters Thursday. Still, DOD officials say they see an increase in reporting as a net positive, because it indicates a greater willingness among servicemembers to open up about their experience and pursue avenues of justice.

“It means our sexual assault victims are getting the care they need and improves accountability through the military justice process,” Beth Foster, executive director of force resiliency for the Pentagon, told reporters Thursday. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Amid Recruiting Woes, Officers Allege The Army Is Preventing Their Scheduled Discharge)

Overall, the Army saw about a 9% decrease to 3,718 compared to 2021 numbers, according to the report. That was countered by roughly a 9% increase in the Navy, a 3.6% increase in the Marine Corps and a 13% increase in the Air Force, Galbraith explained.

However, the percentage increase was lower than the 13% bounce in 2021 compared to the prior year’s numbers, according to The Associated Press.

The Pentagon publishes periodic survey-based reports of sexual assault in the military, including a report on sexual harassment as military service academies released every March and the report on sexual assault across the military released in April. The activity comes at the direction of Congress, which has long pressured DOD to address sexual assault and harassment within the ranks and develop effective prevention measures, according to the AP.

Nevertheless, sexual assaults have increased in the military almost every year since 2006, according to the AP.

This year, SAPRO is seeking to hire 2,400 full-time personnel from a dedicated $479 million fund for a “prevention workforce,” one of 82 recommendations made to the office by an independent review board, Nate Galbreath, SAPRO’s deputy director, explained.

“This is the first time in the 15 years that I’ve been working [on] this issue for the Department of Defense that I have a fully funded and fully staffed way forward,” Galbreath told the AP. “I think this is the thing that’s going to allow us to really address this.”

“Everybody needs to hold us accountable. They need to watch this space, and we will make good on our promise to address this,” he added, the AP reported.

Another change coming in December is to employ independent attorneys for reviewing and prosecuting cases rather than commanders, who may be torn between acting on a victim’s allegations and the pull to avoid drawing negative attention to the unit, Galbreath told reporters Thursday.

Still, he said DOD would like to see more cases prosecuted through the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), as growing numbers of victims are pursuing less confrontational routes.

“How do we restore faith back into military justice such that people want to participate in one of the court martial processes?” he asked.

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