Continued from page 1

Released in May, the Pentagon survey fueled an Obama administration campaign to depict sexual assault in the military as out of control. Media reports have suggested that the military is a haven for sexual misconduct. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has made stamping out sexual misconduct a top priority and talks about it frequently.

The difference between the Pentagon and Justice Department surveys is striking, if not an apples-to-apples comparison.

The Pentagon said 4 percent of all active-duty military women in 2010 and 6 percent in 2012 were victims of “unwanted sexual contact” in the previous 12 months.

“Unwanted sexual contact” is a catchall phrase for attempted or completed abusive sexual contact to include rape.

In 2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released reports in March and in September based on months of in-person interviews. They focused on violent crime in 2010, including the category of rape/sexual assault. It fits essentially the same parameters as the Pentagon’s definition, and Justice uses the same term, “unwanted sexual contact.”

Its survey found that 0.1 percent, or one-tenth of one percent, of girls and women 12 and older were victims of rape or sexual assault in 2010. It was based on a Bureau of Justice Statistics report in March titled “Female Violence of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010.

It contains data that more closely match the military women population. The survey found that 0.37 percent, more than a third of a percent, of women ages 18 to 34 experienced sexual assault “victimization.” This term captures all incidents, not just individual victims. But 85 percent were individual victims.

Again, the rate is far below the Pentagon survey rate.

‘Such bad math’

The bureau’s statistics are based on the National Crime Victimization Survey, which is considered the gold standard for capturing violent crime rates because of its methodology.

Unlike the Pentagon’s emailed survey to a website link, the National Crime Victimization Survey involves face-to-face interviews with a scientific sample size (146,570) and follow-up telephone sessions, all conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Pentagon survey said 12,000 military women, or 6 percent of the roughly 200,000 active-duty women, reported being victims of unwanted sexual contact. The total number of victims was 26,000, including 14,000 men.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics report, “Measuring the Prevalence of Crime with the National Crime Victimization Survey,” said there were 127,000 unique female victims in 2010 in the U.S. With 131 million girls and women 12 and older in 2010, it works out to a rate of 0.1 percent.

Some inside the military have questioned the Pentagon results, which were based on 22,792 respondents from 108,478 emails.

The month it was released, Capt. Lindsay Rodman, a Marine Corps judge advocate, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled “The Pentagon’s Bad Math on Sexual Assault.”

Story Continues →