DoD report shows increase in sexual assaults

• Report shows reported assaults increased from 3,192 to 3,374

Staff Report

NEW YORK — One day after the Air Force’s chief of sexual assault prevention himself was arrested for sexual assault, the new Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for Fiscal Year 2012 shows a sharp increase in the estimated number of assaults in the military annually.

Published by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO), the report shows a 6 percent rise in reported assaults from the previous year, from 3,192 to 3,374.

In even more troubling news, the number of total estimated sexual assaults jumped from 19,300 last year to 26,000 this year, an increase of 34.7 percent in FY 2012.

Many victims do not report sexual assaults because of fear of retaliation, the impact on one’s career, or the belief that the current system of military law will not effectively prosecute their alleged perpetrator.

Anu Bhagwati, executive director of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and a former Marine Corps captain, said: “Every American should be outraged by the disturbing numbers from this year’s Defense Department sexual assault report. But no one should be surprised. Today, we have a military justice system in which commanding officers are granted the authority over the entire criminal justice process — instead of trained, impartial attorneys and judges. Unless Congress removes the institutional bias from the military judicial system, sexual predators will continue to wreak havoc on our Armed Forces, and our troops will continue to face a well-founded fear of reporting, institutional retaliation and career jeopardy.”

A 2011 Pentagon health survey showed roughly one in five women said they were victims of unwanted sexual contact from another member of the military.

SWAN is a national nonpartisan civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN’s mission is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without discrimination, harassment or assault; and to reform veterans’ services to ensure high-quality health care and benefits for women veterans and their families.

From the June 19-25, 2013, issue

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