Congress Is Demanding Action on the U.S. Military’s Sexual Assault Crisis

Congress Is Demanding Action on the U.S. Military’s Sexual Assault Crisis
Rep. Jackie Speier together with other lawmakers and supporters speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill about ending sexual harassment and assault in the U.S. military, July 21, 2020, in Washington (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

The issue of sexual assault and violence within the U.S. military has become the focus of heightened attention in recent years, in part due to a series of high-profile cases, such as the murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen at the Army’s Fort Hood base in the spring of 2020. A subsequent Army investigation found that Guillen had been sexually harassed before she was allegedly murdered by a fellow soldier. But despite recent efforts to address the issue, sexual assault in the military continues to rise.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s latest report on sexual assault prevention and response, released last fall, the estimated rates of sexual assaults among servicemembers has increased significantly in the past three years. According to the report, 8.1 percent of military women and 1.5 percent of military men have experienced unwanted sexual contact, compared to 6.2 percent of military women and 0.7 percent of military men in 2018, the last time the survey was administered.

Moreover, the increase is not the result of servicemembers feeling more comfortable in reporting assaults to their command hierarchy. The latest Department of Defense report suggests that the rate of official reporting has actually decreased, from 30 percent of estimated cases in 2018 to 20 percent in 2021. It shows a corresponding sharp decline in servicemembers’ confidence that their command would “treat them with dignity and respect” after officially reporting an assault, from 66 percent to 39 percent for women and from 82 percent to 63 percent for men.

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