False complaints of sexual abuse in the military are rising at a faster rate than overall reports of sexual assault, a trend that could harm combat readiness, analysts say.
Virtually all media attention on a Pentagon report last week focused on an increase in service members’ claims of sexual abuse in an anonymous survey, but unmentioned were statistics showing that a significant percentage of such actually investigated cases were baseless.
From 2009 to 2012, the number of sexual abuse reports rose from 3,244 to 3,374 — a 4 percent increase.
During the same period, the number of what the Pentagon calls “unfounded allegations” based on completed investigations of those reports rose from 331 to 444 — a 35 percent increase.
In 2012, there were 2,661 completed investigations, meaning that the 444 false complaints accounted for about 17 percent of all closed cases last year. False reports accounted for about 13 percent of closed cases in 2009.
Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and analyst at the Family Research Council, is writing a book for Regnery Publishing Inc. about the Pentagon’s push to put women in direct ground combat in the infantry, armor and special operations.
“In the course of conducting interviews with commanders, I heard time and again complaints about female service members making sex-related allegations which proved unfounded,” Mr. Maginnis said. “Not only do some women abuse the truth, but it also robs their commanders from more important, mission-related tasks.
“Female service members told me that some women invite problems which lead men on and then result in advances the woman can’t turn off. Too often, such female culpability leads to allegations of sexual contact, assault and then the women feign innocence.”
Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness, said the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office (SAPRO) is ignoring the problem of false reports.
“Unsubstantiated accusations remain a significant problem, but the SAPRO is doing nothing about it,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “I went through both volumes and found no evidence of concern about the significant 17 percent of ‘unfounded accusations.’ Something should be done to reduce the numbers of false accusations, the first step being an admission that the problem exists.”
The number of sex abuse reports has risen from 1,700 a decade ago to 3,374 last year.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have pushed male and female personnel into close living conditions at a sprawling network of bases.
The existence of unwanted and wanted sexual contact in the war zone is not disputed.
For example, a group of Army physicians in 2010 studied one brigade combat team deployed to Iraq in 2007.