Sexual Assault Reports in Military Remain Constant
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 14, 2008 There were about the same number of sexual assaults reported across the military this year as last year, according to Defense Department report released today.
Kaye Whitley, director of the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, answers a question during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., March 14, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam M. Stump
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Officials released today the 2007 report on sexual assault along with the 2006 gender relations survey. Both are congressionally mandated reports
Because of reporting changes, this year’s data cannot be directly compared to last year’s. In this report the DoD changed its reporting window from calendar year to fiscal year. As a result, one quarter’s worth of data from calendar year 2006 is also recorded in this report.
Officials said they made the change in reporting to align with changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice definitions for sexual assault crimes.
Still, officials said it appears the number of reports remain “relatively constant” with last year’s, according to the report.
For fiscal year 2007 there were 2,688 reports of sexual assault among the services. Of those, just over 2,000 were unrestricted reports, meaning it is sent to the command for investigation. There were 705 restricted, or confidential, reports of sexual assault. Those allow the victim to receive medical care and other services without an investigation being initiated.
The restricted option is a change to the military reporting system, and one that officials said affords many victims access to care who would not have reported the crime otherwise.
“We felt that the investigation and the notification of the command may possibly be a barrier to report. So we removed that,” said Kaye Whitley, director of the the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
The command is notified only that an assault was reported. The victim can later change the report type. In this reporting period, 102 switched their report from restricted to unrestricted.
“When I see that number [of restricted reports] I truly believe that is 705 victims that would not have come forward and would not have gotten the help and assistance they needed,” Whitley said.
Nearly 70 percent of the restricted reports were for rape.
According to the report, just more than 1,500 of those reports investigated involved servicemembers as victims. About 60 percent were reports of rape.
The services finished about 2,000 investigations in fiscal year 2007. About 1,300 of those were reported in the fiscal year. The rest were carried over from the previous year.
Of the investigations finished, commanders were able to take action against about half of those accused of the crimes. There were 181 courts martial, 201 non-judicial punishments and 218 administrative actions and discharges. Of those reports that the commanders could not take action against, more than three-quarters were found unsubstantiated or unfounded, lacked sufficient evidence or the victim recanted.
There were 174 reports of sexual assault in U.S. Central Command. One hundred and five were made in Iraq and 43 in Afghanistan. The others were at other sites within the command.
The term sexual assault for the purposes of DoD reporting includes a wide variety of offenses ranging from rape to indecent assault and attempts at those crimes. The DoD is required to report to Congress annually the number of sexual assaults in the military.