Report: US Military Registered 13% Rise in Sexual Assault Cases in 2021
© AP Photo / John Bazemore In this Aug. 21, 2015 file photo, U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest, left, of Orange, Conn., stands in formation during an Army Ranger School graduation ceremony at Fort Benning, Ga.
© AP Photo / John Bazemore
The Pentagon's efforts to address sexual offenses and misconduct have drawn criticism from politicians and the general public, who are likely to be incensed by the most recent statistics, emboldening arguments that the military is not doing enough to prevent violence.
Sexual assault reports increased across the US military by 13% last year as facilities started to emerge from pandemic restrictions and public spaces reopened, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
According to the data, this increase was mostly driven by the Army and Navy branches. Unnamed defense and military officials reportedly told the outlet that nearly 36,000 service members said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact in a confidential survey — a sharp increase over the roughly 20,000 who said that in a survey of a similar nature in 2018.
The sources indicated that the roughly 26% increase in reports involving Army soldiers is mostly to blame for the total rise. This is the largest increase in reports for the service branch since 2013, when it saw a spike of 51%.
The officials said that the increase in Navy reports was nearly 9%, the Air Force was a little bit more than 2%, and the Marine Corps was less than 2%.
The Army, which is failing to fulfill its recruiting goals and is anticipated to miss the target by at least 10,000 — or by anywhere between 18% and 25% — at the end of September, will be particularly troubled by the large increase in reports, according to the sources.
Army authorities have recognized the significance of having parents and other recruit-influencing parties feel confident that their son or daughter would be safe and well-cared for while serving.
Sources within the military claimed that last year, Army authorities saw the rising numbers and began efforts to put new initiatives into place. They went on to say that some initiatives are already having an impact and that this year has seen a decline in the incidence of sexual assault and harassment.
Comparing one year to another is challenging due to COVID-19 and the pandemic restrictions. Officials reportedly claimed they lacked sufficient information to assess if or to what extent the pandemic contributed to the higher reporting and survey numbers.
Not Enough Security in the Military
It has taken the Pentagon and the military services a long time to develop procedures to deter sexual assault and promote reporting. The military has made strides in making it safer and easier for service members to come forward, but it has fared much less well in reducing assaults, which have risen almost every year since 2006.
A training program that soldiers receive when they report to their first duty station has reportedly shown some results, Army authorities stated in the upcoming report. Soldiers simulate risky circumstances as part of the program, which stresses instruction on how to react.
They are also enhancing the evaluation procedures used to grade unit leaders, including the random selection of individuals to administer the tests.
After two years of comparatively modest increases in the number of reports submitted by or involving service personnel, there has been a double-digit overall increase.
Reports of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact increased somewhat by 1% in the fiscal year that ends in September 2020, since the pandemic caused much of the world to be essentially shut down. Reports increased by roughly 3% in the prior year, which was a significant improvement from 2018's 13% increase.
Every year, the Pentagon publishes a report on the number of sexual assaults involving or reported by personnel. However, because sexual assault is a felony that is vastly underreported, the department started conducting a private survey every two years to better understand the issue.
More than 20,000 service members reported experiencing some form of sexual assault, according to the 2018 poll, but only one-third of them formally reported it.
According to the report, this year's study is anticipated to be made public on Thursday. It is estimated that roughly 35,800 service members were sexually assaulted in the previous year. Thus, only around one in five military personnel reported an incident that occurred the prior year. Up to 10% of assaults that service members report happened before they enlisted every year, according to the AP.
The outlet's sources reportedly noted that survey respondents also reported rises in workplace hostility and sexual harassment, which can occasionally result in additional sexual assaults or misconduct. According to the survey, 1.5% of males and 8% of women in the service reported having had unwanted sexual contact of some kind.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited in the upcoming report, the poll indicated that a woman's likelihood of experiencing sexual assault in the military was comparable to that of a woman in the general community. However, the risk is significantly lower for men in the military than it is in American society at large.
Because so many people are reluctant to report assaults, both in the military and in society in general, defense officials have claimed that an increase in recorded assaults is a positive trend. They claim that increased reporting demonstrates increased trust in the reporting process and comfort with victim support.
However, it is unclear whether the rise in reports last year genuinely reflects a problem that is getting worse or whether people who report assaults were simply more willing to come forward.
On April 22, 2020, Houston Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen disappeared from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Her family spent 69 days looking for information and assistance. On June 30, 2020, Guillen was discovered burned and dismembered.
Her family claimed she did not disclose sexual harassment out of concern for how her chain of command would react. Guillen's relatives have since become outspoken supporters of military reform.
6 July 2020, 00:41 GMT