U.S. Military Sexual Assault Reports Increase 13% in 2021

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Reported Sexual Assaults Among U.S. Military Members Increase 13% in 2021

Reported Sexual Assaults Among U.S. Military Members Increase 13% in 2021

Sep 2, 2022

Reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military spiked by 13% from the previous fiscal year, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. The jump was driven largely by significant increases in reports of sexual assault among Army and Navy members, as bases were no longer under pandemic restrictions and public venues reopened, the AP reported.

The Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military 2021 confirmed the following statistics:

  • In the Army, reports of sexual assault increased 25.6% from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2021.
  • The Navy saw an increase of 9.2% in reports of sexual assault.
  • The Air Force and the Marines each saw an increase of approximately 2%.

Overall, the military received 8,866 reports of sexual assault in fiscal year 2021, according to data from the annual report. The previous year, the military received 7,916 reports of sexual assault.

The total number includes:

  • Reports of sexual assault by service members during their military service
  • Reports by service members before their military service
  • Reports made by civilians or foreign nationals against service members

The fiscal year covered in the report was from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021, and the rates of increase are comparing fiscal year 2020 statistics to fiscal year 2021 statistics, CNN confirmed.

Confidential Survey of U.S. Military Members Indicates Widespread Sexual Assault

While the increase in sexual assault reports cited above is disconcerting, a confidential survey conducted by the military indicates a greater prevalence in incidents as well as a larger systemic issue impacting all branches.

According to the confidential survey:

  • 35,900 active-duty service members said they had experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in 2021.
  • Of those 35,900, 19,300 women and 16,600 men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact.

The survey is conducted by the military every two years and used to estimate the wider prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault. However, as CNN reported, “it also includes such instances that occurred before a service member joined the military or committed by someone outside the military.”

Department of Defense Office of Force Resiliency Executive Director Elizabeth Foster said during a briefing at the Pentagon Thursday that combating sexual assault is a top priority. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called sexual assault a “scourge” within the military, and Foster confirmed that the secretary recently sent a Department of Defense-wide memo with a renewed call to action to “redouble efforts to address sexual assault in the military.”

Department of Defense officials said during Thursday’s briefing that the U.S. military has to “move from drawing awareness to the issues of assaults within the military and among the services to doing a better job preventing them,” according to CNN.

The data on sexual assaults from the 2021 report shows a “significant increase in sexual assault prevalence” in the military, Foster said Thursday.

“The results are a tragic reminder of the challenges we face and the absolute need for continued leadership engagement, historic reforms that remain underway, and a focus on the latest in prevention so we can achieve the foundational change we need,” Foster added.

Foster also confirmed that the prevalence rate – where military service members noted if they had experienced unwanted sexual contact – indicates the “highest sexual assault prevalence rate since the department started measuring sexual assault prevalence in 2006” for women and the “second highest prevalence rate for men.”

The report also confirmed the following U.S. military sexual assault statistics:

  • Women overwhelmingly identified their alleged offenders as male when reporting unwanted sexual contact (91% of unwanted contact had come from men).
  • Less than half of men identified their alleged offenders as male (46%).
  • One-third of men reporting unwanted sexual contact identified their offenders as female.
  • The majority of unwanted sexual contact incidents involved someone from work and often a friend or acquaintance.
  • Approximately 9% of women and 10% of men who reported this kind of contact indicated that at least one alleged offender was an intimate partner.

The report on the increase in sexual assaults “is a blow to the Army,” CNN reported, noting that the military branch is “already struggling to meet its recruiting goals.”

“In a July memo, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville acknowledged the service may have as few as 445,000 soldiers by the end of next year, significantly lower than the goal of greater than 460,000,” CNN said.

Pentagon Offers Recommendations on Reducing Sexual Assaults

Pentagon Offers Recommendations on Reducing Sexual Assaults
Last year, Defense Secretary Austin directed an Independent Review Commission to provide the department with recommendations on how to tackle the problem, according to CNN.

The Pentagon then proceeded to carry out a plan to adopt all of the commission’s 80 recommendations in September 2021.

“We have heard loud and clear from our victims that the conditions in the force are unacceptable right now,” a Defense Department official said during Thursday’s briefing. “That is why we are making unprecedented resource investments to get after this problem.”

Some of the recommended changes being implemented include:

  • Handling of sexual assault cases has been officially removed from the military chain of command by Congress via this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
  • Military commanders now have to forward complaints of sexual harassment to independent investigators.

In addition, Defense Department Office of Force Resiliency Senior Prevention Advisor Dr. Andra Tharp told CNN that the department is moving from an awareness-based prevention approach to a more action-based prevention method by establishing new policies and procedures through both the commission recommendations and the changes made in the NDAA.

When we talk about prevention what we’re referring to is stopping a violent act before it occurs, either by increasing those conditions or factors that protect against that violence from occurring or decreasing those conditions or factors that increase the risk for the violence occurring,” Tharp said. “This is different from an awareness-based prevention that has been part of the department’s advocacy work for the past two decades.

While the Pentagon has been under pressure from Congress to improve both prevention of sexual assaults and prosecution of sex crimes, many estimates indicate that such incidents are significantly underreported.

“Victims’ rights advocates and others have argued that service members don’t trust the system and are often unwilling to go to their commanders with a complaint for fear of retribution. They also worry that commanders may not press ahead with some cases if they know the accused. Members of Congress argued that using independent prosecutors would make the process more fair, and make victims more comfortable coming forward,” according to CBS News.

As the AP report noted, the overall findings from the 2021 U.S. military sexual assault report indicate trends consistent with the general population.

“Officials said the survey suggested that, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a woman’s chance of being sexually assaulted in the military was about the same as a woman in the general population. But for men, the risk for those in the military is much lower than in U.S. society,” the AP reported.

February 2022 Defense Department Report Indicated Another Increase in Sexual Assaults

In February, a Defense Department report confirmed that claims of sexual assault at U.S. military academies increased by 25%, while claims of sexual harassment increased by 150% during the 2020-2021 academic year (when compared to the previous academic year).

Sexual assault statistics confirmed from that report included:

  • 161 reports of sexual assault were received compared to 129 reports the previous academic year (an increase of 32 reports).
  • A total of 30 complaints of sexual harassment were made during the 2020-2021 academic year compared to 12 reports the year before (an increase of 18).

Of the 161 reports of sexual assault where cadets and midshipmen attending the military academies were the victim or alleged offender:

  • 131 were from people reporting incidents that occurred during military service
  • 14 reports were from incidents that occurred prior to military service
  • 16 reports were made by “active-duty service members, civilians, or prep school students”

Of the 30 sexual harassment complaints made in the 2020-2021 academic year:

  • Nine were formal complaints
  • 21 were informal complaints

“We recognize this is a troubling problem, it’s a horrible thing to have to experience, and we are here to help make sure that it happens less often and that victims get the kind of care and support,” Nate Galbreath, the Defense Department’s Acting Director of the Sexual Assault Response Office, said at the time of the report’s release.

Military Sexual Assault Lawyer Consultation

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  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Psychological harm
  • Counseling or therapy costs
  • Hospital/medical expenses (past and future)
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a leading sexual assault firm assisting survivors throughout the nation and offering an opportunity to secure justice on their own terms. Led by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy D.A. for Los Angeles County, DLG provides survivors with a four-tiered structure of representation which includes access to 24/7 resources.

In addition to our experienced and proven sexual assault attorneys, DLG’s SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts) includes an in-house licensed clinical therapist, an in-house retired LAPD sex crimes detective, and two in-house licensed victim advocates.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

To file a claim for military sexual assault, contact a dedicated member of our team today at 818-322-4056 for a free, confidential, and no obligation consultation. We will review the facts of your case, provide you with an overview of your legal options, offer an estimate for how long your claim may take to settle, and provide an estimate for how much your damages award may be worth.

DLG’s sexual assault lawyers have been helping survivors secure justice through maximum financial compensation for over 25 years, obtaining more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% win record. We’ll fight aggressively on your behalf to ensure you get the justice you deserve for your military sexual assault claim.

Check also:
Military Sexual Assault: To Stop this Growing Pandemic, You Must Understand It

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