Military sexual assaults surged in 2021, report shows

Soldiers from across the XVIII Airborne Corps stand in formation before an oath-of-enlistment ceremony at Segra Stadium in Fayetteville, N.C., on June 14, 2022.

Soldiers from across the XVIII Airborne Corps stand in formation before an oath-of-enlistment ceremony at Segra Stadium in Fayetteville, N.C., on June 14, 2022. U.S. Army / Spc. Joshua Cowden

Pentagon’s annual report also reveals that fewer people trust the military system for dealing with such assaults.

The number of reported military sexual assaults spiked last year, with a 13 percent increase in reports over the previous year, while service members’ trust in the military system plummeted, according to a report released Thursday by the Pentagon.

Troops reported 8,866 sexual assaults in fiscal 2021, up from 7,816 in fiscal 2020. The military believes only about 20 percent of troops who are sexually assaulted report the incidents, and based on a survey done in late 2021 and early 2022, estimate that 35,875 active-duty service members experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in fiscal 2021.

Nearly half of the cases were reported by soldiers. The Army’s 25-percent increase from to 3,250 in 2020 to 4,081 in fiscal 2021 was the largest among the services. The Army also had the highest reporting rate of any service, with 7.1 reports per thousand soldiers. The Air Force had the lowest rate, at 4.6 reports per thousand airmen.

The news comes as the Pentagon works to make sweeping changes to its justice system, handling of sexual assault and harassment cases, and culture, propelled in part by public outrage after the 2020 murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen.

Like many defense secretaries before him, Lloyd Austin has said repeatedly that reducing sexual assaults in the military is one of his top priorities. One of his first acts in office was to establish an independent review commission to identify the changes necessary to prevent these crimes from happening, to hold attackers accountable, and to provide proper support for victims. But many of the recommended changes have not been implemented yet—including an impending overhaul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

On Thursday, Austin said the Congressionally mandated annual report shows that sexual assault and sexual harassment are “persistent and corrosive problems” and underscore the “importance and urgency” of the work the Pentagon is doing.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said she was “deeply concerned” by the increases. “I expect our leaders to maintain positive command climates where our soldiers feel safe and can thrive,” she said in a written statement.

Sexual assault is historically underreported, both in the civilian and military justice systems. So to get a better idea of how many such assaults are happening in the military, Congress in 1988 mandated that the Pentagon conduct an anonymous survey of service members. The survey has been done every two years since 2010—until 2020, when it was curtailed due to COVID-19. The survey included in this year’s report is the first since 2018, and used different questions than previous versions, according to the report. More than 69,500 active-duty and more than 29,100 Reserve troops completed the survey.

In addition to the estimate that 35,875 active-duty troops experienced unwanted sexual contact last year, the survey found that trust in the military system had plummeted to historic lows.

In 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2018, the percentage of men who agreed that they could trust the military to protect their privacy was in the 70s, and the percentage of women was generally in the 60s. This year, just 58 percent of men and 34 percent of women agreed that they could trust the military to protect their privacy. Other survey questions about trust in the system garnered similar results.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the results of the survey are disturbing and show “a military in crisis.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., agreed, saying the drop in trust “only raises more red flags.”

This article was published first on DefenseOne and GovExec, FederalSoup partner sites. 

NEXT STORY: VA to offer abortions in limited cases

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.