The armed services received 6,172 reports of sexual assaults involving service members in 2016 — a 1.5-percent increase from 2015. Of those reports, 5,350 service members were victims. Among service member victims, 556 reported incidents that happened before they entered military service. Another 778 victims were U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, and the status of 44 could not be determined.
The statistics were provided to Congress by the Defense Department on May 1, and were based on numerical data and statistics collected since 2011.
Pentagon officials are encouraged by the fact that even though estimated instances of sexual assault among service members dropped in fiscal year 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015 through Sept. 30, 2016), the proportion of service members reporting the crime increased during the same time span.
“With sexual assault being a significantly underreported crime, we consider this higher portion of reporting as an indicator that victims are continuing to gain confidence in their leaders and response personnel to provide them with the care they need, and hold alleged perpetrators appropriately accountable,” A.M. Kurta, acting for the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, wrote in the executive summary.
The report cited several policy changes the Pentagon implemented, to combat sexual assault. Among them:
* The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are working together to streamline treatment services when victims leave active duty and become veterans.
* Training for commanders and care providers is being enhanced.
* More emphasis is being placed on male victims.
* Victims are getting more protection from retaliation by perpetrators who may outrank them.
Pentagon officials cite both these actions and the statistics contained in the report as examples of the department’s commitment to eliminate sexual assault and harassment from the ranks. But they realize that the job is not complete. “While this year’s data show promise that the department’s efforts are working the way they were intended, it does not mean the work will cease,” the report stated.