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Department of Defense Press Briefing on Sexual Assault in the Military in the Pentagon Press Briefing Room

Press Operations

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, and Dr. Nathan Galbreath, senior executive advisor for the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office
May 01, 2015
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Good afternoon, and thanks for being here.

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, which has been this past month, may have ended yesterday, but because of its dangers to our men and women in uniform and its impact on our mission, our commitment to stopping sexual assault cannot cease.

As I said last week to local ROTC students at Georgetown University and sexual-assault first responders at Fort Myer, one reason the military is among America's most admired institutions is that we're a learning organization. We strive to understand and correct our flaws.

Today, DoD is releasing our annual report on sexual assault in the military for Fiscal Year 2014, and I'd like to say a few words about what we learned from the data contained in this report about how to understand and correct our flaws and some new actions that we're taking based on those insights.

Undersecretary Carson will make remarks, and Dr. Galbreath will give the briefing after this and take your questions.

Now, while the topline numbers in today's report were included in our report to President Obama this past December, the full analysis gives us much more detail and makes clear where we need to do better and also tells us how.

First, we developed a new and different measurement method to estimate better how many service members experienced a sexual assault last year, yielding an estimated number of 20,300. That's clearly far, far too many. But we judge that it is a more accurate measurement of sexual assault, because it is more in line with the range of crimes that military law defines as sexual assault.

While the new estimates support our existing trend data on unwanted sexual contact, which the former methodology measured, this new measure will be the one we'll use going forward.

Second, through the analysis in the report, we're getting a clearer picture of how this crime is perpetrated on men. Compared to women, men are less likely to report and more likely to experience multiple incidents by multiple offenders, and they're more likely to view the incident as hazing or an attempt to humiliate.

Third, the survey suggests that 22 percent of active-duty women and 7 percent of active-duty men may have experienced some form of sexual harassment last year. That's abhorrent and has to stop, not just because it's flat out wrong but also because the data show that those who experience sexual harassment are more likely to be sexually assaulted. So we have to better attack permissive behaviors like sexual harassment.

Fourth, we're not making enough progress on countering retaliation. Too many service members, the data shows, feel that when they report or try to stop these crimes, they're being ostracized or retaliated against in some way.

In short, the report makes it crystal clear that we have to do more, and it gives insights on how to improve this ongoing campaign to ensure dignity and respect in our institution.

As I said at Georgetown last week, no man or woman who serves in the United States military should ever be sexually assaulted, nor should they experience reprisals for reporting such crimes.

Today, I'm issuing four new directives that move us forward in accordance with this data. These directives are based in part on what we learned in this latest report, and each will continue to improve our efforts to eradicate sexual assault from the ranks.

For example, based on what we've learned about the link between sexual harassment and sexual assault, I'm directing the services to update their prevention training to incorporate what we've learned and have that integrated in the training.

Based on what we're learning about gender differences, we're also going to look at how to best meet the needs of men and women who are seeking treatment for sexual assault.

And based on what we're learning about retaliation, especially from one's peers, I'm directing that we develop a DOD-wide comprehensive strategy to prevent retaliation against service members who report or intervene on behalf of victims of sexual assault and other crimes.

To reemphasize what I said last week, even though sexual assault is a disgrace in any form and happens far too often across our country, it's -- it's a particular challenge for us here.

But our military also has particular strengths in dealing with this problem. We believe in an ethos of honor and trust. We've tackled tough problems before, and again, we're a learning organization, so we'll keep getting smarter, we'll keep getting better, we'll keep doing everything we can to beat back sexual assault, and we won't let up.

Thank you for coming here this afternoon, all of you, and thank you for your interest in this very important subject.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRAD CARSON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

My name is Brad Carson. I am the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

I am greatly appreciative of Secretary Carter leadership and his commitment, as he just discussed, to addressing this critical and challenging issue.

As he said, sexual misconduct in any form, whether hazing, sexual assault or rape, has no place in our nation's military. Nothing is more important to force readiness than the health and wellbeing of our servicemen and -women and their families.

In my new role as the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, I am deeply and very personally committed to identifying and eradicating any environment within our military where sexual misconduct is tolerated, condoned or negligently overlooked by military leaders and doing so from the highest to the lowest unit levels.

Today, with the release of the 2014 SAPRO report, we have an important opportunity to look at what where we stand compared to previous years' statistics and discuss also where we need to be.

Over the past decade, the department has dedicated substantial resources and energy to better understanding the issue of sexual assault and implementing crucial reforms, such as developing professional and effective training curriculums, skills and personnel to run response and prevention programs across the world.

These programs are all available to service members and provide immediate crisis, medical, behavioral and legal health services -- and legal services to military victims of sexual assault.

Much work has been done on this issue in the last few years. The military operates today in compliance with 54 sexual-assault-related initiatives promulgated by Secretary Carter and his predecessors, over 100 sexual-assault-related provisions of law enacted by Congress, and we grapple with the implementation of over 150 recommendations from federal oversight bodies, including the Government Accountability Office, the Response System to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel, the Judicial Proceedings Panel and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Together, since 2012, these actions have fundamentally improved the department's response to the crime of sexual assault. We now have many options in place to help victims report sexual assaults, seek assistance and services for their health and safety, understand their legal rights and options and maintain their privacy, if they so choose.

Many of these program elements did not exist as recently as even three years ago.

These efforts have yielded progress in our fight against sexual assault. As Dr. Galbreath will further describe, we continue to see an unprecedented increase in the reporting of sexual assault from victims, which suggests -- which suggests growing confidence in the department's response system, and estimates indicate overall occurrences of the crime have decreased since 2012.

With that said, there are still far too many instances of sexual assault in the military, and we have a long way to go to eliminate the crime from within the ranks.

But we do need to build on our current progress as we continue to work on the problem areas.

I share -- I share particularly the secretary's concern about retaliation and ostracism so often associated with the reporting of sexual assault. This is an area where we need to dig deeper and learn more so that we can better address these experiences not just related to sexual assault but for the protection of all our people courageously reporting wrongdoing.

There're already some efforts under way to address retaliation, and as you have heard, Secretary Carter's directing me and the secretaries of the military departments to take additional actions squarely focused on this one problem. And I am up for the challenge in my new role.

As I mentioned upfront, there has been an unprecedented focus on this issue for the past several years, and it has led to meaningful progress.

There is much more work still to be done. Looking ahead, we'll remain prevention-focused, and we will continue an uncompromising commitment to victim care.

Personally, I intend to sustain the high level of leadership focus and attention that this issue so demands as we build on the progress we have seen. Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.

Dr. Galbreath of the department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office will now take you through a few slides to discuss details of the report released today, and he will stand by to answer your questions as well.

Thank you very much.

SENIOR EXECUTIVE ADVISOR NATHAN GALBREATH: Good afternoon. My name's Nate Galbreath, and I serve as the department's senior subject-matter advisor in the Sexual Assault Prevention Response office.

I'm a clinical psychologist who's treated both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault and have also served as a criminal investigator and a forensics specialist for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Our office director, Major Jeff -- Major General Jeff Snow, would be here to brief you today except that he's attending to a family emergency, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this very difficult time.

The report that we're releasing today fulfills an annual requirement to provide Congress with the number of reports of sexual assault that we've received that involve service members, the dispositions or outcomes of those reports and the progress that we've made in improving sexual assault, prevention and response.

In conjunction with the release of the report, the secretary of defense has directed new initiatives to improve our efforts in eradicating this crime from the military. And I'll discuss those in more detail in just a moment.

As Secretary Carter and Mr. Carson indicated, this report -- this year's report is a bit different from previous years' annual reports.

As you may recall, this past December, we delivered a report to the president documenting our progress in combating sexual assault in the military. That report covered a three-year period. Today's report provides greater detail in covering our efforts in FY14.

New today, our follow-up analyses from the 2014 survey conducted for us by the RAND Corporation and topline results of the survey were released along with the report to the president last December and showed that past year prevalence of unwanted sexual contact is down significantly for active-duty women since 2012 and trending downwards for men.

As a reminder, unwanted sexual contact is the proxy measure that we've been using to estimate the prevalence of sexual assault since 2006.

Now, while it's important for us to be able to link to prior survey findings on this measure, we also asked RAND to check our methods to ensure that we're surveying military personnel in the most effective way possible.

As a result, RAND also included in the 2014 survey a new measure of sexual assault developed by experts to better align with language in military law.

The new measure found a similar topline prevalence estimate for sexual assault as our prior estimate but also found some meaningful new insights, which are detailed in a follow-up report being released by them alongside ours today.

Also in the report is a status on our efforts to implement legislation, policy initiatives and recommendations from oversight bodies.

Lastly, the report looks -- provides the final FY14 reporting data. These numbers will look familiar to you because we reported them last December. However, we've since gone through and validated our data, which has resulted in some minor adjustments.

We know our reports contain a lot of information, largely because we're doing a lot to combat this crime. But I want to boil some of this -- some of the messages down for you here.

Overall occurrences of sexual assault against military members have decreased significantly since 2012. As you all know, sexual assault is a very underreported crime. As a result, we implemented a number of policies to encourage greater reporting by victims, as victims who report the crime are more likely to engage care.

In addition, reporting's the only means by which we have to identify those who commit the crime and then hold those offenders appropriately accountable.

These policies appear to be working, as we've experienced an unprecedented increase in reports of sexual assault over the past two years.

Our final statistics for FY14 indicate that the number of reports we receive this year are 11 percent over what we received last year and 70 -- 7-0 percent over what we received in 2012. We now estimate receiving a reported sexual assault from about one in four military victims, up from one in 10 military victims in 2012.

We're also making progress in holding offenders appropriately accountable, with DoD authorities taking disciplinary action against 76 percent of military subjects this past year.

Now, that reflects a 3-percent change than what we reported last December, which was about 73 percent. But once again, through our data-validation process, we found additional cases and -- and included them in the numbers.

On the other hand, our surveys have not shown progress in reducing the number of victims who perceived some form of retaliation associated with reporting this crime. But I want to point out that our goal in asking about retaliation on surveys is to better assess victim wellbeing and the stress they encounter. This important feedback is making our program much stronger. And I have a bit more to say about that in just a moment.

Analysis of the 2014 survey supported previous findings on the association of sexual harassment and gender discrimination with sexual assault, specifically those who indicated experiencing sexual harassment under gender discrimination are also more likely to indicate experience -- to experience a sexual assault.

That's information that we've had for some time, but the RAND report and the analysis thereof has refreshed that data and provided us additional information about those relationships.

The survey also identified important differences in how sexual assault is perpetrated against men and women.

Men that have experienced a sexual assault are more than -- are more likely than women to describe the event as hazing and nonsexual. These and other findings help improve our prevention and treatment efforts with men.

Once again, these findings underscore important connections between unit climate and sexual assault. This is why many of our prevention efforts have focused on giving commanders the tools they need to assess their unit climates and promote solutions that respect the contributions of all.

I'd now like to provide you with some highlights from the 2014 survey and some new follow-up analysis conducted by the RAND Corporation.

And by the way, RAND Corporation is going to be available to answer any of the detailed questions that you have, because I'm only going to sketch for you the highlights.

As I stated previously, the survey conducted last summer contained two measures to estimate the past year prevalence of sexual assault.

The first measure, unwanted sexual contact, is the survey question the department has used since 2006 to estimate the number of military victims of sexual assault. And using that measure, there were an estimated 4.3 percent of women and 0.9 percent of men on active duty who experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in 2014.

Now, based on those rates, we can do population estimates, and that number, we estimate, is about 18,900 active-duty members experiencing unwanted sexual contact in -- in the 12 months prior to being surveyed.

Both the rates and the population estimates are down significantly over what was measured in 2012 as well as what was measured in 2006.

A second measure to estimate the past year prevalence of sexual assault was also included in the -- in the survey last summer. This new measure, developed by crime survey experts, military attorneys and statisticians, was designed to better align with the sexual assault offenses described in military law.

Now, this new measure largely validated our prior survey approach and found similar topline estimates of sexual assault, with 4.9 percent of women and 1 percent of men indicating they experienced a sexual assault in the past year. These rates are not statistically different than the rates of sexual assault estimated with the prior measure of unwanted sexual contact.

Like the prior measure, this new measure also shows risk of sexual assault is five times greater for women than men. However, because there are significantly more men in the military than women, the estimated number of active-duty men who indicated experience of sexual assault last year outnumbers the estimated number of active-duty women.

There's some other important findings with regard to how the experience in the sexual assault in the military differs by gender. Men who are assaulted are more likely to experience multiple incidents in the past year, be assaulted by multiple offenders during work or duty hours, describe the event as hazing or intended to abuse or humiliate them as opposed to having some sexual intent, experience physical injuries or threats during a penetrative assault.

However, men are less likely than women to experience a sexual assault that involves alcohol use or tell anybody about the event or file a report.

These findings have important implications for our training, for our prevention and our treatment efforts as well.

Just for a brief review, let's look at those two survey measures side by side. Okay.

All total, there were an estimated 20,300 active-duty members who indicated experiencing a sexual assault in 2014 using the RAND measure. While the prior measure and the new measure seem to yield slightly different topline population estimates, those estimates are within margins of error of each other and are not different statistically.

And you'll note since December, the population estimates have been refined slightly. But I also want to illustrate to you that the number of sexual assaults report in this -- in the report being released today is about 148 more than what we reported back in December, largely due to our data validation.

Q: What -- what do you mean by data validation? How do you --

DR. GALBREATH: So -- so in order to develop those -- to get those numbers, we basically took a 30-day -- six-month process and scrunched it to 30 days, and as we went back and we went and revalidated each of the reports that came in, there were additional 148 reports that we were able to include in this year's report.

We also asked RAND to update our sexual harassment measure to better align with law and department policy, and using this new measure, RAND estimated that about 22 percent of active-duty women and 7 percent of active-duty men indicated experiencing sexual harassment last year.

Now, while these -- these estimates are important in and of themselves, they take on new importance with regard to their relationship with sexual assault. These findings further validate the existence of a continuum of harm in which sexual harassment and sexual assault coexist and serve to reinforce each other, something we described more fully in our DoD prevention strategy that -- released by the secretary a year ago.

Please keep in mind that one may not cause the other. Sexual harassment may not cause sexual assault. But these -- these problems are both closely related and highly correlated.

I'd now like to briefly outline some of the other work that we've been doing to improve sexual assault prevention and response.

Since 2012, Congress has passed 71 sections of law containing more than 100 unique requirements in national defense authorization acts. And we've been working to implement all of those.

In that same time period, the secretary of defense has directed 54 initiatives to improve sexual assault programs, including four new initiatives today.

Last spring, the Response System to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel released their final report, and in that congressionally directed panel, they made 132 recommendations to improve sexual assault prevention, response in the military justice system.

Now, while we've made a great deal of progress in these and other efforts, we still have much to do, especially with regard to victim perceptions of retaliation associated with reporting a sexual assault.

When the president directed us to provide him a report in December 2013, we developed a list of metrics agreed upon between both the DoD and the White House to help us demonstrate our progress.

Now, we -- we chose to track retaliation, because it's something that we never want a victim to face after reporting a sexual assault.

We elected to measure retaliation in three ways: through a trend measure from prior surveys, through our new survivor experience survey and through climate surveys of our military units.

These sources allowed us to get a better overall picture of survivor experiences reporting the crime.

Now, unfortunately, our surveys of the population did not demonstrate progress in this area. While our military members generally gave high marks to their unit leadership for establishing climates that would welcome reporting, far too many respondents to the 2014 RAND survey indicated perceiving some kind of retaliation associated with their report.

And this was echoed on our survivor experience survey where survivors indicated that they received support from their commander, but that support tended to wane as they dealt with people lower down the chain of command.

It's important to note, however, that survey responses should not be reviewed as an indicator of actionable offenses under military law. In other words, there are other elements of proof that go into it and evidence that must be gathered in order to establish whether or not an offense has occurred. However, we use our survey data in order to assess victim wellbeing and to determine methods to better support them.

Now, since the department delivered the report -- delivered the report to the president, we've been working very hard to get -- to learn more about retaliation.

However, the data we gathered from surveys about retaliation was not sufficient to allow us a visibility into the problem, at least that visibility into the problem that we needed.

As a result, we're going to revise our survey measure, and we're going to improve the way we ask this question to better align with law and department policy, much like the approach that RAND took in designing the new measures for sexual assault and sexual harassment.

So what are we doing about this? Following the report to the president, Secretary Hagel directed that we enhance the training we give to supervisors of our service members in order to allow them to better identify and better address behaviors that could be retaliatory.

Another initiative directed by the secretary following the December report was for the services to engage command to prevent retaliation.

Now, we're doing this through our case-management groups. Now, you may not know, but each month, installation commanders in their role as the chair of the case-management group are asking about retaliation experienced by victims, first responders and by bystanders that might have tried to intervene.

Those commanders in their role as the chair of those groups are referring these allegations to the proper authority, whether they be the services inspectors general, the criminal investigators, the Military Equal Opportunity Office or the unit commanders.

Having commanders ask regularly about retaliation demonstrates our resolve to protect victims and others in our response system and lets everyone know that this behavior has no place in the military.

Now, last February, Secretary Hagel issued a third initiative to address retaliation. This directive brings all stakeholders within the department together to sync our policies that addresses retaliation as well as identify mechanisms for commanders to address this behavior in their units. And this initiative also includes a focus on retaliation carried out through social media as well.

However, as you heard from Secretary Carter, we must do more to prevent retaliation; therefore the secretary is ordering us to develop a strategy to prevent retaliation associated with reporting any crime, not just sexual assault.

This last initiative joins three others that are being released today, and I'll tell you more about those here in the dark text above.

First, the secretary's directing that the services capture lessons learned from the 2014 survey and incorporate those findings into their sexual-assault prevention response training.

Second, we're going to evaluate our current treatments for men and women seeking care for sexual assault to ensure they reflect gender differences where it makes sense to do so. That evaluation will inform training of our providers to better address the specific needs of men and women in treatment.

Third, we'll be employing a common force-wide survey strategy across the department to determine the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment

This strategy will follow a number of recommendations made to us by the RAND Corporation as well as the law that requires us to conduct our surveys every two years.

It's important for us as a department to speak with one voice on this topic. However, in off-years, similar to what we do at military service academies, we'll be conducting force-wide focus groups to identify emerging trends and follow up on matters captured in our biennial surveys.

It was my intention today to give you a snapshot of our efforts to combat sexual assault as well as demonstrate progress that we're making in implementing the over 200 provisions of law, the directives and recommendations to the department. This unprecedented leadership focus has resulted in an improved understanding of the problem and how it impacts the military.

I'd just kind of like to share with you a personal note on -- an observation that I have.

When I joined SAPRO in 2007, we were barely receiving 1,500 reports of sexual assault a year. This year we received 6,131, almost three and a half times as many.

More reporting connects victims with needed care and services. It helps them heal from their -- this terrible crime and helps them restore their lives.

Even with the increase in reporting, though, by service members, sexual assault remains underreported, and we encourage any service member who's experienced a sexual assault to choose a reporting option that's right for them, to make a report and get the help that they need.

And as you might know, service members can talk to someone about sexual assault by calling the Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247 and can find their nearest SARC by going to www.safehelpline.org.

I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Q: Dr. Galbreath, can you explain -- I don't understand the disparity between saying that there are -- were fewer assaults in 2012 and 2014 but there were 70 percent more reports.

DR. GALBREATH: Okay. So what we're talking about is -- are two different sources of data.

The first one that you talked about when we talked about a reduction in the prevalence of crime, in other words, our estimate of how often the crime occurs. And that's the -- that's the numbers that we -- that we came out with, the 18,900, or the 20,000. That's how many we think are out there.

However, as far as the numbers of reports that actually come in and -- and -- and -- of people that make a report to us, that number has increased by 70 percent in the past two years.

So people walking through the door making a restricted or an unrestricted report has increased by that much, and it's an all-time high this year.

Q: So there -- so there were -- it's fair to say that from 2012 to 2014, there were more incidences in the U.S. military of sexual assault?

DR. GALBREATH: It's not fair to say that.

What I'm saying is, is that the estimates of the numbers of -- or the incidents that you're talking about have come down since 2012, while the number of reports of that have come up.

We track both numbers, because this top number, even though it's the top number, is like our denominator, and how many of that got reported, and that's our -- that's our numerator. Those are the reports that come in.

Q: (Inaudible) -- what was the actual number, the 6,131 --

DR. GALBREATH: 6,131 reports.

Q: Okay. So that -- that -- and that's up from 30-something-hundred (ph), right?

DR. GALBREATH: That's -- that's up from last year. The -- last year, the number was 11 percent less than that, and then -- I don't have the number right off the top of my head, but we can get that for you.

Q: I can get it.

DR. GALBREATH: Okay.

Q: Thanks you.

DR. GALBREATH: You bet.

Q: Hi. Tara Copp with the Washington Examiner.

Just to follow on Courtney's question, could you walk us through how you estimate the -- the topline number?

How do you get the -- maybe for every report you receive, there's four that you don't have out there. So how do you know that there's about 20,000 sexual assaults, and yet only about 6,000 are reported?

DR. GALBREATH: Okay. So how we do that is through the -- the survey that RAND conducted for us last summer.

And what we did is we asked all that the -- there were about 560,000 people invited to take this survey. We had about 170,000 respondents, about a 30-percent response rate, which is very good. And in -- out of those respondents, we asked them if they experienced a sexual assault by using the questions that RAND had developed for us as well as that unwanted sexual contact question.

These are measures. And they don't ask, "Did you experience a sexual assault last year"? That's not what these things ask.

The questions are behaviorally based. They list off behaviors. For example, did anyone force you to place their penis -- did anyone force their penis in your mouth, your anus or you vagina?

And they're very clear -- very clear language, so that people understand what we're talking about, which is industry standard for these kinds of crime reports.

And then based on that and other criteria, RAND was able to calculate an estimate rate for how many people said, "Yes, that happened to me in this last year."

So using the RAND new measure, 4.9 percent of women indicated that they experienced a sexual assault in 2014, and about 1 percent of men indicated that, "Yes, I experienced a sexual assault in 2014."

Now, that percentage is -- those are important percentages. But oftentimes we often wonder, "Well, how many people does that account for"?

And so when we go and we -- and we use those -- the number of people in the military -- because these surveys are done representively -- in other words, they're -- the results are weighted to represent the entire force -- when we calculate the number of people that 4.9 percent represents, that's about -- about 8,600 or so women. And when we calculate the number of men -- as a matter of fact, Krystal, could bring up the -- the slide?

One more. One more. One more. Keep going. Right here.

So when we calculate how much this percentage -- how many women this percent accounts for, we get this number here, about 9,600.

When we estimate how many men does 1 percent of our active force account for, it's about 10,600.

We add those two together to get the 20,300, more or less -- due to rounding, a little bit different there -- and that's our denominator.

And then we measure the number of service member reports that we get. Now, this number of service member reports we get are at an all-time high as well. But our numbers include that 6,131, includes not only our service member victims but other civilians that reported to us that they've experienced a crime.

But because I do an apples-to-apples comparison here, I factor out those reports, and I look at how many service member victims made a report to me versus how many service members I think are out there.

So my number -- so that's where I get my -- my estimate of about one in four victims of sexual assault make a report to the department versus what it was in 2012, which is about one in 10.

Q: Based on that, you have fairly high confidence that the number of assaults in the military is actually dropping?

DR. GALBREATH: Yes.

Q: Quick follow on that. 6,131 includes civilians. Can you give some sense of how -- what percentage of civilians?

DR. GALBREATH: About a quarter. About a quarter of that involve civilian victims who've made a report to the department.

That's our -- that is our -- our task from Congress, is to report to them not only the sexual assaults experienced by victims in the military but also sexual assaults that may have been perpetrated by members of the military as well.

And so that -- that might include some civilian victims, and that's what we count in our data.

Q: Can you just describe a little bit more? Who are these civilians? These are contractors? Who are these --

DR. GALBREATH: These could be people in the local community. They could be foreign nationals. They could be anyone that -- that comes in -- in contact in a military perpetrator.

Q: Hi, sir. Tom Vanden Brook with USA Today.

Can we talk a little bit about the retaliation issue?

DR. GALBREATH: Please.

Q: So it's about two thirds of women who report, is that right?

DR. GALBREATH: Of the women on the survey who indicated that they experienced a sexual assault in the past year and made a report to the department, to a DoD authority, about two-thirds of those women indicated that they experienced some form of retaliation associated with that report.

Q: For years we've heard there's zero tolerance for sexual assault. This would indicate that that message isn't getting through to a lot of people, right? I mean, if they're retaliating against someone who has brought forth a report.

DR. GALBREATH: Well, keep in mind, that we -- that this takes time. Ultimately, what I would tell you is last year we did some focus groups with people to ask them, what do you think -- is anything changed in the -- in the -- since you've been in the service?

As a matter of fact, we asked this of our most senior enlisted folks and some senior officers in our focus groups. And we said, "Do you see any kind of -- do you notice any kind of change to how things are happening"?

And what they said is, yes, absolutely. It's night and day how we communicate about this and how -- and how we address this in our units.

Now, there might always be one or two people that disregard that and, remember, one jerk in the department or in a unit can cause a lot of problems. But ultimately we're giving people the tools to assess the climate, to understand what they can do to solve the problem and also to -- and also to hold people appropriately accountable.

Q: If two thirds of the people who are reporting this are being retaliated against, it's more than just a jerk or two, right?

DR. GALBREATH: Well, here's the deal, that number, once again, like I said in my -- in my comments, is that's not necessarily -- those aren't necessarily incidents of retaliation. Those are perceptions of our victims that have taken the survey, that they perceive things might -- that they might have been retaliated against.

I've treated victims of sexual assault. And what I would tell you is, is that after you experience trauma, the world is a much darker place and you begin to see things a little bit differently than you did before.

In order for things to be -- a actual retaliation episode to be -- to be established, there's -- perceptions is just one element, the thing that -- the complaint that might come in. But there's additional evidence that must be gathered and other elements of proof such as intent of the person and things along those lines to establish that.

That's why I said that our surveys, our 62 percent there, should not be taken as these are reports of retaliation. That is not the case. These are things -- we've asked them for their perceptions so that we can better assess their well-being. But there's a lot more needed in order to get after that.

Q: On retaliation, with 10,600 men, I realize it's a much smaller percentage, but still a fairly -- a larger number of men than women experiencing sexual assaults under the methodology.

Why on a separate slide did you -- did you say -- have an asterisk saying that the men perceiving retaliation is not reportable? What is -- what is -- why is that the case -- (inaudible)?

DR. GALBREATH: That's a statistical issue. With the number of people that actually fit into that category, when the margins of error become too wide, we just can't report out the result.

Men probably did experience -- as a matter of fact, we know that men did experience some retaliation, but we just didn't have enough confidence in the -- in the result.

In other words, if I tell you that it's a certain point, and the margin of error says it could be 30 points below or -- 30 points above or 30 points below, I can't report that out.

Q: Why is it different for men than women?

DR. GALBREATH: Largely because of the men -- keep in mind that of the men who experienced a sexual assault, very small numbers report. And once very small numbers report, very few of them may have experienced that retaliation afterwards. And so, there's great variability.

Q: Sir, if I could follow on the question again, and please forgive me if I'm obtuse about the statistics: 6,131 sexual assaults --

DR. GALBREATH: Reported.

Q: -- reported in 2014. That's an 11 percent increase, correct?

DR. GALBREATH: Yes. Over -- over FY13.

Q: Okay. Then, how do you get to conclude that there have been fewer sexual assaults?

DR. GALBREATH: Okay. So a lot of people think that the number of reports of sexual assault equals how many -- how many incidents occur every year, and that's a mistake. That's what we mean by it's underreported. It occurs much more often than it's ever reported, and that's true both in the military and in the civilian population as well.

So a public -- we adopted a public health approach in 2010 that basically married up surveying for prevalence, surveying how often it occurs, and matching that to how often it's ever reported. And when we -- and that's -- the reason why we do that is so -- as a matter of fact we use that not only for sexual assault, we use it for influenza, for all other sorts of public health problems.

But we do that because we need to know what do we think how bad could this problem be versus how much of it are we seeing in our reports, that people come in and tell us about?

And what we're saying is that we have always kind of -- we've been able to estimate the number of occurrences through these surveys. And that's that 20,000-some that we think that are out there versus the number of reports that come in. And we want to improve and increase the number of people that report this, because what research says is that when you bring more people in, when they come in and report, they're more likely to engage care and services, and get that restorative help that they need in order to heal.

Q: So the actual reports have gone up? There's been --

(CROSSTALK)

DR. GALBREATH: The actual reports have gone up. But the estimates --

Q: The estimates are that it's going down?

DR. GALBREATH: You've got it. That's exactly right.

Q: (Off-mic) the 31, that is sexual assault, that does not include any harassment, right?

DR. GALBREATH: That's correct.

Q: (Off-mic) from ABC News. The 19,000 number is way down from the 26,000 estimate from a couple of years ago. What is the break down of the 26,000 by gender?

DR. GALBREATH: The 26,000 by gender? It was -- stand by, because that's last year's numbers. The -- very similar in breakdown. I believe it was -- you know what, I'm gonna have to get back to you on that. I just -- I can't recall that right off the top of my head, but it's a very similar breakdown to what we had before. I apologize.

Q: And the perception among the males that this is hazing, I mean, does that point to an institutional pattern here as opposed to behavior, let's say, a culture where this permeates and continues on?

DR. GALBREATH: You know, I don't have that information. We're asking RAND to do us some additional analysis on that, but I just don't have that breakdown of -- beyond what they were able to get for us as far as whether they saw it as hazing or intent to abuse or humiliate.

Q: I have one last one. The numbers between 2012 and 2013, there was a significant jump. Could you just talk a little bit about the reasons why there was such a jump?

DR. GALBREATH: Boy, I wish I could tell you, but we do believe that it's a lot to do with our policies that are encouraging people to come forward. Like I said is, one of the things that we put in place in 2005 was restricted reporting, which allows people to come in and engage care and services but not initiate a criminal investigation. And what we were finding is that people would rather suffer in silence rather than come forward and sometimes, you know, subject themselves to the legal system. So experts told us we needed that confidential reporting, and so we put that together.

In addition, what I would also tell you is that it's the senior leadership focus I think has a great deal to do with it. Like I said, before 2012, what I would tell you is we worked very hard in the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Office to bring people forward and to put -- and put policies in place.

But one of the things what was amazing is when Mr. Panetta put this on his calendar, it just energized everything. And more people started talking about it. Senior leaders started talking about it every single day. I'm sure you heard every secretary of a military service and every chief of military service talk on sexual assault now. It's just things that weren't happening before.

And people hear that and they say, these people -- I have more confidence in it because people are talking about it and they're inviting me to come in and make that report. And we think that has everything to do with it.

STAFF: Thanks, everybody.