- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sexual assault cases within the U.S. military increased by 3% last year, a slight increase compared to years prior, a Pentagon report published Thursday showed.

The Air Force reported the highest spike of sexual assault cases at 9%, the report said.

Last year, the Pentagon’s annual report revealed a 13% jump in reported sexual assault cases across the military. The report sparked outrage from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who charged that the Pentagon is failing the nation’s women and men in uniform.

The vast majority of sexual assault victims were female, at 81% — 19% were male, according to the Pentagon.

Of the subjects reported, 76% of the subjects were male, 4% were female, and 20% of reports did not specify the subject’s gender.

The bulk of the victims and subjects involved in sexual assault were among junior enlisted ranks — 65% of the victims and 45% of the subjects were E1-E4 grades.

“Our work to eliminate sexual assault reflects our ongoing commitment to advance a culture of trust, respect and inclusion within the force,” Elizabeth Van Winkle, executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency, said of the latest report.

“We are acutely aware of the high cost of not succeeding, not only for the readiness of our country’s defense, but for the individual Americans who step forward and volunteer to serve our Nation,” she said.

A total of 7,825 sexual assault cases involving service members as victims or subjects were reported across the military services.

Of those cases, the Pentagon received 937 reports from U.S. civilians or foreign nationals who alleged a sexual assault by military personnel and 652 reports from service members who sought assistance for a sexual assault that occurred prior to military service.

The report found an increase in perception among service members who felt their commanders were the “primary drivers behind encouraging reporting, ensuring training within the unit, and providing perspective on why sexual assault is a readiness issue.”

Last year, the protocol for commanders to encourage reporting instances of sexual assault came under intense scrutiny by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand who said during a Senate hearing on the matter that she is “tired of statements from commanders that say zero tolerance.”

“I am tired of the statement I get over and over from the chain of command: ‘We got this, ma’am. We got this.’ You don’t have it. You’re failing us,” she said last May.

According to the report, service members felt that when commanders fail to emphasize the importance of reporting sexual assault, “the unit’s collective emphasis falters.”

In 2019, commanders took action in approximately two-thirds of the reported cases.

The Marine Corps reported the biggest drop in sexual assault cases, which fell by about 6% last year.

Every other branch reported increases.

The Air Force reported 1,683 cases, up from 1,544 in 2018.

The Navy reported 1,774 cases, up from 1,696 in 2018.

The Army reported the smallest increase at about 2% from the year prior at 3,219, up from 3,155.

Ms. Van Winkle said the Pentagon “cannot, and will not, waver in our commitment to eliminate these behaviors from our force and ensure that all who serve are treated, and treat others, with dignity and respect.”

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