By John J.
Kruzel and Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press
D.C. — The Defense
Department today released a congressional report that examines sexual
assault allegations in the military services and sets policies for
reducing incidents. Key components of the annual analysis include a
finding that indicates a rise in the number of incidents reported in
fiscal 2008 and details of department-led initiatives aimed at
preventing sexual assault and increasing the accountability of
"The department has been aggressively pursuing efforts to
increase reporting and convince more victims to seek care and
Director of the Defense Department's
Sexual Assault Prevention and
the fear and stigma associated with the crime, sexual assault remains
one of our nation’s most under-reported crimes in both the military
and civilian community," Dr. Kaye Whitley, the director of the
Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office,
said during a Pentagon news conference here today. "The
department has been aggressively pursuing efforts to increase
reporting and convince more victims to seek care and support
analysis found 2,923 sexual assault "reports" in fiscal
2008, which is roughly an 8 percent increase compared to fiscal 2007.
But officials cautioned that the rise in reporting — a figure that
represents the total number of sexual assaults reported — is not
necessarily indicative that more incidents occurred.
possible explanation for the increase could be that higher numbers of
victims are reporting incidents as people become more aware of sexual
assault in general, and the military’s robust support network,
does not mean sexual assaults have gone up," she said. "This
means that reports have gone up, which we see as very positive. The
increase of reports means the department’s policy of getting victims
to come forward is making a difference."
officials said the aggregate number of reports combines incidents that
vary in the degree of offense committed. About 63 percent represent
rape or aggravated assault. Also, 251 incidents occurred in combat
areas, with 141 in Iraq and 22 in Afghanistan. Those numbers increased
from fiscal 2007, Whitley said.
training set for April 27-May 1
Fort McCoy Army Community Service (ACS) Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response program will host a 40-hour training
program for authorized personnel April 27-May 1 at the Wisconsin
training is for initial unit victim advocates, sexual assault
response coordinators and deployable sexual assault response
more information, call ACS at 608-388-8951.
more information about ACS programs, visit the Fort McCoy
Morale, Welfare and Recreation Web site at http://www.mccoymwr.com
and click on Army Community Service or ACS Schoolhouse.
on sexual assault prevention, Whitley said the department seeks to
establish a military culture that calls on bystanders to play a more
active role in preventing assaults.
said the spirit of the effort was partly inspired by a campaign
launched to curb drunk driving, in which friends were encouraged to
dissuade their peers from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
There are parallels between the programs as many cases of sexual
assault involve alcohol.
you see one of your buddies serve drinks to somebody to get them
drunk, maybe what you do is step up and say, ‘Why don’t you wait
until she’s sober?’" Whitley said in an interview last week,
illustrating an example of bystander intervention.
part of the department’s social marketing prevention campaign, a
public service announcement is set to launch worldwide next month,
which will promote bystander intervention. The 20-second video shows
still pictures of male and female servicemembers with a dubbed, male
voice saying, "preventing sexual assault is part of my
goal is to strengthen the knowledge and the skills of servicemembers
and empower them to identify and safely intervene in situations that
may lead up to sexual assault," Whitley said.
department’s multipronged approach to tackling the subject
acknowledges that not all incidents are preventable. Another component
of the policy is raising awareness that victims have a strong support
network should they seek help.
said an average of one in six women and one in 32 men in the United
States experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime.
the department hopes its robust approach to caring for victims will
encourage them to alert the proper authority — the sexual assault
response coordinator based on every military installation and
dedicated to providing such assistance — when incidents occur.
have a 24-hour system in place to respond to sexual assaults,"
she said, adding that the response coordinator supports the victim
through every step of the process, including medical care counseling
and other services.
who are victimized by sexual assault can report the incident one of
two ways: they can file an unrestricted or restricted report, the
latter of which protects the anonymity of the victim and does not lead
to a criminal investigation.
the 2,923 reports of sexual assault in fiscal 2008, 2,280 were
unrestricted, while 643 were restricted, according to the
Defense Department understands the need to balance victims’
anonymity vs. pursuing justice against the perpetrator, Whitley said,
adding that the department will always support the victim’s right to
choose which course of reporting with which they’re most
the victim’s command nor the police are notified in cases of
restricted, or anonymous, reporting.
victims are permitted to have a voluntary forensic examination
performed soon after the incident, with the results being saved for up
to a year, should an investigation be launched later.
noted that last year, 110 incidents that began as restricted reports
were decided by the victims to be transferred to unrestricted.
we hope is that the victim will feel that they’ve gained a sense of
control back and maybe they’ll begin to develop confidence in our
system and later switch to unrestricted so we can hold that offender
accountable," Whitley said.
taking the first step — reporting the incident — proves difficult.
to defense officials, of the 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of
men who indicated they experienced unwanted sexual contact, the
majority — 79 percent of women and 78 percent of men — chose not
to report it.
most frequently cited reasons for not reporting the incident include:
uncomfortable making a report (58 percent of women and 51 percent of
they would be labeled a troublemaker (56 percent of women and 41
percent of men);
not want anyone to know about the incident (56 percent of women and 47
percent of men);
not think anything would be done (53 percent of women and 44 percent
retaliation (50 percent of women and 38 percent of men);
important enough to report (48 percent of women and 60 percent of
they would not be believed (41 percent of women and 35 percent of
reporting would take too much time and effort (36 percent of women and
46 percent of men); and
not report because they did not know how (18 percent of women and 26
percent of men).
is my hope today that when (servicemembers) see this report or press
conference, that they will be encouraged and come forward to report
sexual assault and receive care," Whitley said. "Sexual
assault harms our people and erodes our mission readiness. The
department remains committed to aggressively pursuing increased
reporting of sexual assault, providing first-class care and preventing
this crime before it occurs."