Mission Un-Accomplished on Military Sexual Assaults
The Pentagon estimates that in 2014, there were approximately 19,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault and rape throughout the U.S. military. That’s an average of 52 assaults a day. Of those, only 4,660 were unrestricted reports. In other words, 75 percent of survivors didn’t feel comfortable enough in the system to come forward and report the incident. And of those that did report, only a paltry 587 saw their case proceed to trial, and 62% experienced retaliation for coming forward, a number that remains unchanged from 2012. In fact, according to one recent independent report, someone who reports is 12x more likely to be retaliated against than see an assailant held accountable. As survivors of sexual assault tell us over and over, the reason they don’t report is that they fear retaliation and they don’t trust the chain of command to bring the assailants to justice. In the current system, the commanding officer has the sole decision-making authority over whether a case goes to trial. This is wrong and must end.
To end the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, there must be accountability for perpetrators and justice for survivors. Only then will victims have the confidence in the system to come forward and report these crimes. To accomplish this, Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act would create an independent and impartial system of military justice by transferring prosecutorial authority from within the chain of command to an independent trained military prosecutor where it belongs. Our men and women in uniform deserve an independent and objective military justice system worthy of their service and sacrifice.
Just look at the statistics
- In 2014, approximately 19,000 members of the U.S. military experienced unwanted sexual contact, essentially the same level as 2010. That means that every day there are an average of 52 unwanted sexual contacts, and these numbers have barely shifted in years.
- Of those nearly 19,000, only 4,660 were willing to report the crime in order to seek justice, meaning only 1 in 4 had confidence in the justice system.
- 62% of women who reported sexual assault in 2014 say they were retaliated against. This number has remained consistent since 2012 despite reforms purporting to make retaliation a crime.
- 76% of servicewomen, and nearly half of servicemen, say that sexual harassment is “common” or “very common.” Servicewomen who were sexually harassed were 1400% more likely to be sexually assaulted in the same year.
- In 60% of the cases, supervisors and unit leaders are the ones responsible for sexual harassment and gender discrimination