DoD: 8,866 Reports of Sexual Assault in FY 21, 13% Increase From Prior Year

By Susan Jones | September 7, 2022 | 7:08am EDT
Female U.S. Marine Corps recruits from Lima Company, the first gender-integrated training class at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, carry 60 pound packs at the end of their 9.7 mile hike on April 22, 2021. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
Female U.S. Marine Corps recruits from Lima Company, the first gender-integrated training class at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, carry 60 pound packs at the end of their 9.7 mile hike on April 22, 2021. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - "Sexual assault and sexual harassment remain persistent and corrosive problems across the military," a new Pentagon report says.

In the survey conducted for Fiscal Year 2021, 8.4 percent of active duty women and 1.5 percent of active duty men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed.

The Department received a total of 8,866 reports of sexual assault in Fiscal Year 2021 -- 1,050 more than the 7,816 received in Fiscal Year 2020. That's a 13 percent increase year to year.

Of those 8,866 reports, 7,260 were from active duty members. (7,260 is 0.607 percent of the 1,195,000 active duty force.)

Based on those actual reporting rates, the Department estimated that 35,875 active-duty service members experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in the year prior to being surveyed.

While all services received more reports in 2021 compared to 2020, the Army experienced the largest increase in reporting.

The Department uses the term “sexual assault” to refer to a range of crimes, including rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, and attempts to commit these offenses, as defined in military law.

Other findings:

-- Commanders had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action in 67 percent, or 2,683 of accused members’ cases.

-- Disciplinary action was not pursued in 1,263 cases due to insufficient evidence of an offense to prosecute.

-- About two percent of subject cases were unfounded, meaning evidence existed to find that the crime did not occur or that the accused did not commit the crime.

-- Rates of sexual harassment (versus sexual assault) increased for women. This year’s survey found that an estimated 29 percent of active duty women experienced an incident of sexual harassment in 2021, up from the 24 percent estimated for 2018. Rates for men stayed statistically the same between 2018 and 2021.

-- Reports of sexual harassment also increased. In 2021, the Department received 3,174 sexual harassment reports, up from 1,781 in 2020.

-- Women overwhelmingly identified their alleged offenders as male (91 percent). Less than half of men (46 percent) identified their alleged offenders as male, while one-third (30 percent) of men identified the alleged offender as female.

-- Roughly 16 percent of men identified their alleged offender as a mix of men and women acting together, compared with the 6 percent of women who identified their alleged offender as a mix of men and women acting together.

-- The majority of incidents involved someone from work and often a friend or acquaintance. Around 9 percent of women and 10 percent of men indicated at least one alleged offender was an intimate partner.

In a memo accompanying the report, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the FY2021 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military "demonstrates in stark detail that sexual assault and sexual harassment remain persistent and corrosive problems for our Service members.

"The Report underscores the importance and urgency of our work," Austin wrote. "The unprecedented investments that we are making now and in the forthcoming years are intended to restore the trust of our Service members, as well as those considering military service."

The report says DoD "continues to address sexual assault and sexual harassment holistically by advancing prevention, addressing problematic culture, improving the skills of leaders at all levels, and evaluating ways to make reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment easier and safer for victims."

Congress requires the Defense Department to provide an annual report on sexual assault involving members of the United States Armed Forces.

Pentaon Press Secretary Patrick Ryder told reporters on Tuesday, "Sexual assault in the military is a national defense issue, and addressing it is something this department considers absolutely vital to the health and readiness of our forces."

Ryder said the report shows "we have much more work to do to ensure that all members of the US military and the Department of Defense are treated with dignity and respect, and that they can do their important work for our nation without fear of violence or harassment.

"Department of Defense leaders will continue to remain sharply focused on eliminating sexual assault, and as a department, we're committed to preventing this scourge from happening in the first place, assisting sexual assault survivors with recovery and resilience when it does happen, holding offenders accountable and rebuilding trust and confidence among our warfighters that DOD leaders are taking this matter seriously," Ryder said.

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