- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2015

The military has worked to eliminate sexual assault within the ranks in recent years, but a report released Thursday found that it may be neglecting a large group of survivors — men.

The Government Accountability Office report found that while the Defense Department has tried to put gender-neutral sexual assault prevention and response programs in place, men still report the crimes at a much lower rate than women. The report estimated that about 40 percent of sexual assaults on women are actually reported. For men, that number is just 13 percent.

Despite that, the Defense Department hasn’t used this information to make any changes to the program that could target men specifically to come forward. While the report said the services are making some positive steps, the majority of sexual assault services are focused on women as the victims.

“Officials said they have focused the sexual assault prevention and response program mainly on female victims because females have constituted the majority of those reporting sexual assaults, and additionally, that until recently DOD leadership was not comfortable raising male victims as an area of focus,” the report said.

The Defense Department also has not evaluated if men have specific mental or physical needs after sexual assaults that differ from a woman’s needs, according to the report. Two clinicians at the VA Center for Sexual Trauma Services told researchers that men often do respond to an assault differently than a woman, exhibiting problems with behavioral control, interpersonal relationships and sexual dysfunction.

A RAND Corp. survey estimated that between 9,000 and 13,000 males were sexually assaulted in 2014. About 2,500 to 5,000 were penetrative assaults, the report said.

The report also that none of the posters hung around military installations to promote sexual assault prevention and response services explicitly showed a male as a victim. Instead, they all portrayed a female as a victim and a male as a perpetrator.

The GAO recommended that the Defense Department make data-driven decisions to ensure programs address male sexual assault as well, evaluate gender-specific needs after sexual assaults and include information information about men as sexual assault victims in paperwork to raise awareness.

• Jacqueline Klimas can be reached at jklimas@washingtontimes.com.

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