Unwanted sexual contact occurred last year in as many as 8.4% and 1.5% respectively of female active duty personnel.
A Defense Department survey released on Thursday revealed that sexual assaults have reached new heights within the US military.
About one in 12 women on active duty (8.4%) reported having been assaulted or subjected to an assault attempt in the last year, while 1.5% of men reported the same, the Pentagon’s Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for 2021 shows. The estimated number of victims system-wide is 35,875 – a sharp increase over the 20,500 victims among active-duty personnel found in 2018, the last time the survey was conducted.
29 percent of active duty women had reported experiencing sexual harassment, and a quarter claimed to have been assaulted. At the same time, the report rate has declined so that only one in five assaults are now reported – down from one in three in 2018. Both male and female military personnel have lost trust in their ability to treat victims with dignity and protect their privacy.
“These figures are extremely sad and disappointing.,” Elizabeth Foster, the Pentagon’s executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency, told reporters on Thursday. “These events have an effect on an individual’s level but also impact our readiness and ability to carry out our mission.”
Following last year’s Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, the Pentagon has already begun implementing new procedures to deal with the crisis, including establishing special victims’ units to handle sex crimes. It is anticipated that the department will employ more than 2000 people to help staff these units. These new units will have the responsibility of prosecuting sexual assaults from the military chain.
House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel chair and California congresswoman Jackie Speier promised a hearing in the weeks to come, vowing to bring “Congress’s watchful eye” to bear in order to “This national crisis and embarrassment must be addressed.” She suggested a direct causal link between the Defense Department’s failure to address the sexual misconduct epidemic and its inability to meet recruitment goals.
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