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Sexual Assault in the Military Increasing

Mar 30, 2007

Violence against women remains a serious and rising problem in the military, although Pentagon officials say an increase in reports from 2005 to 2006 may be due in part to new policies that make it safer and easier for victims to report these crimes. The Pentagon reported to Congress on March 14 that there were 2,947 alleged sexual assaults involving members of the Armed Forces in 2006, up 24 percent from 2005. Active duty members reported 30 percent of these incidents. Criminal investigations increased 11 percent from 2005 to 2006.

The new restricted, confidential reporting program gives victims the option to pursue an investigation at a later time. Criminal investigations were completed on 62 percent of the cases by the end of 2006, and there are 875 pending criminal investigations.
Army spokeswoman Major Cheryl Phillips told the Associated Press, “There is no evidence that the actual number of assaults is increasing in the Army, but there are definite indicators that the Army has created more willingness among soldier victims to report incidents.”

Some 780 actions were taken by commanders in 2006, 289 of them on reports made in 2006. There were 72 courts-martial that year. The Pentagon report says, “The Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program is making great progress… the changes which have been made have reduced the barriers to victim reporting, prompting more victims to receive medical care and other support services.”

Most advocates, however, say the military is not doing enough to stop sexual assault. The National Defense Authorization Act requires the Department of Defense to submit the Military Services Sexual Assault Annual Report. The report provides an annual summary of the number of alleged sexual assaults against and by members of the Armed Forces. 2006 was the first full year of restricted reporting data collection and will be considered the baseline for any trend observation. The military counts rape, nonconsensual sodomy, indecent assault and attempts to commit any of those as sexual assault.

To see the report, visit www.sapr.mil/contents/references/2006%20Annual%20Report.pdf.

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