Sexual assault in the United States military
This article may require copy editing for style, cohesion and conciseness. (March 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
There is an ongoing problem with sexual assault in the United States armed forces which has received extensive media coverage in the past several years. At least 32% of U.S. military women report having been sexually assaulted, and up to 80% have been sexually harassed. A 2012 Pentagon survey found that approximately 26,000 women and men were sexually assaulted that year. Of those, only 5,334 cases were reported. In 2013, a new Pentagon report found that 5,061 troops reported cases of assault. Some are optimistic that this increase in reports is indicative of victims "growing more comfortable in the system." Of these reported, however, only 484 cases went to trial, and only 376 resulted in convictions. Another investigation found that one in five females in the United States Air Force reported having been sexually assaulted by service members.
A survey for the Department of Defense conducted in 2015 found that in the past year 52% of active service members who reported sexual assault had experienced retaliation in the form of professional, social, and administrative actions or punishments. In addition to retaliation against soldiers remaining in active service, many former service members who reported sexual assaults were forced to leave after being discharged. Reasons for discharge included having a "personality disorder" or engaging in misconduct related to the sexual assault such as fraternization or (prior to the end of Don't ask, don't tell) homosexuality, even if the homosexual conduct was not consensual.
Incidents which have been publicized include the 1991 Tailhook scandal, the 1996 Aberdeen scandal and the 2003 US Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal. In an attempt to deal with this problem, the Department of Defense has issued the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Response policy. A provision in the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act required investigation and reporting regarding sexual harassment and assault at the United States military academies. A report published in the New York Times magazine in March 2007, which surveyed women soldiers' experience in the Iraq War, showed significant incidence of post traumatic stress syndrome resulting from the combination of combat stress and sexual assault. Of the female veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have visited a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility, 15% have screened positive for military sexual trauma.
Women veterans who have been subjected to both sexual and physical assault are more likely to have chronic health issues and significantly lower quality of life in terms of their health more than 10 years after completing active duty. In one recent study, women veterans detailed how traumatic experiences such as sexual assaults from peers and supervisors and subsequent lack of support after these incidents contributed to their decision for premature separation from military service. Many of these women see these experiences as robbing them of promised opportunities when they enlisted and feel betrayed when the military’s handling of their sexual assault cases resulted in them having to continue to work with the perpetrator. Another article suggests that women in the military might have worse consequences of reporting IPV and increased difficulty of prosecuting perpetrators due to the nature of military service. It is proposed that military commanders who handle sexual assault cases be sensitized to the dynamics and impacts of IPV in order to lessen secondary victimization of women and provide a greater social support system for women who experience IPV in the military.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Recent statistics
- 3 Lawsuits against the Department of Defense
- 4 Clemencies, arrests and new attention in 2013
- 5 Related legislation
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Sexual assault is a crime defined as sexual contact upon a person or persons unwillingly, by means of force, physical threat, and abuse of authority, which often leads to the victim or victims of the crime fearing to seek justice. This fear is instilled by the same means in which the act was opposed on the person or persons. Sexual Assault includes: rape, indecent assault, attempts to commit these acts, and witnessing these acts and not reporting them.
The U.S. Army Study Guide states:
- "Sexual assault is a crime defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. Sexual Assault includes: Rape; Non consensual Sodomy (oral or anal sex); Indecent Assault (unwanted, inappropriate sexual contact or fondling); and Attempts to commit these acts."
The 2005 Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies report states:
- "Within the military community, the term sexual assault carries a more far-reaching meaning that encompasses everything from violent sexual acts such as rape, forcible sodomy, and assault with intent to commit rape or sodomy, to indecent assault. While indecent assault connotes violence, violence is not a prerequisite of the crime. Indecent assault can be a mere sexual touching that occurs without the consent of the person who is touched."
At least 25% of women serving in the U.S. military have been sexually assaulted, and up to 80% have been sexually harassed.
A substantial increase in reported sexual assaults was reported at the three U.S. military academies for the 2010–2011 school year. It is possible that the increase resulted only from increased willingness to report incidents; increased reporting has been one of the goals of the Department of Defense.
At a November 2011 press conference introducing legislation to combat sexual assault in the armed forces Rep. Jackie Speier stated that, of the 13% of military sexual assault victims who reported the crimes committed against them, 90% were involuntarily discharged.
In September 2013, Congress received the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 2013 Statutory Enforcement Report. The report found that during the 2012 fiscal year, there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault of military service members. Of these, 816 were not included in the commission report because they were confidential, restricted, and not investigated. The report indicated that commanders are increasingly likely to refer sexual assault cases to court martial compared to the prior four years. In 15% of cases the accused perpetrator was permitted to resign or be discharged in lieu of court martial.
The same commission report included the results of an anonymous survey of military personnel in which 23% of women and 4% of men reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact since enlistment. Based on this survey, the Department of Defense estimated that 26,000 service members experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact, from groping to rape, in the year 2012. 34% of women and 24% of men who reported these events in the anonymous survey stated that they had reported the event to authorities.
According to a 2013 United States Commission on Civil Rights report, a 2010 survey conducted by the Department of Defense found that 54% of women and 27% of men did not report because they feared retaliation; the survey also found that 47% of women and 20% of men did not report because they had heard other victims had a negative experience after reporting.
In a 2011, an alleged victim of sexual assault sued the sitting Secretary of Defense and the former Secretary of Defense in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. She was seeking money damages on the theory that their Department had failed to protect her from her assailant. The Court dismissed the claim on grounds that without Congressional invitation, the courts have little authority to intervene in military affairs because under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, regulation of the military is the responsibility of Congress. Congress had not invited the courts to allow lawsuits against its armed forces, and so the lawsuit was dismissed. Those who were offended by the dismissal of the case criticized the court and claimed the decision had labeled sexual assault an "occupational hazard" in the armed forces. The decision of the court has no such language in it.
Sexual assault against men
The Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, most involved attacks on men, mostly by other men. Recent statistics show that in terms of number of assaults, "the majority of the victims are men." It also states that although rare, women have previously aided men in sexually assaulting other women. According to statistics released by the Department of Defense, in fiscal 2012, more men were victims of sexual abuse than women. Turchik and Wilson found that "one problem that may be unique for men is confusion concerning sexual identity, masculinity, and sexual orientation after an assault, especially if the perpetrator is a man," and that "homosexual victims may…feel that the assault was a punishment for being gay, whereas heterosexual victims may feel confused about sexuality and masculinity, especially if their body sexually responded during the assault."
Studies of male sexual assault victims have shown that they become more prone to emotional, physical, and social difficulties after being assaulted, which is comparable to women. This shows that "[r]egardless of the victim’s gender…the consequences of sexual assault are both far reaching and acute."
Lawsuits against the Department of Defense
In February 2011, seventeen United States veterans filed Cioca v. Rumsfeld, a suit against the Pentagon and defense secretary Robert Gates and former secretary Donald Rumsfeld, alleging that they allowed a culture in the armed forces where rape was unevenly reported and punished. In several of the plaintiffs' cases, the victim had been forced to work with the accused rapist after reporting them for sexual assault. Unit commanders often have heavy influence over military rape cases, and less than one in five cases are prosecuted. The case was featured in an episode of The Passionate Eye and the documentary The Invisible War. It was dismissed in December 2011, appealed in April 2012, and the appeal was dismissed in Fourth Circuit court in July 2013.
Clemencies, arrests and new attention in 2013
In 2013, two male officers convicted by courts martial of sexual assault were given clemency consisting of having their convictions set aside by respective three-star generals, Lieutenant Generals Craig Franklin of the Third Air Force and Susan Helms of the 14th Air Force, Air Force Space Command and Joint Functional Component Command for Space, US Strategic Command. In a six-page memorandum, Franklin outlined each piece of evidence in the case which caused him to conclude that there had not been proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the accused's guilt. Helms provided her rationale in a Memorandum For Record, posted on the Air Force FOIA Website  In her 6-page memo, she outlined why the prosecution had not proven its case for sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt. Her memo includes, verbatim, the specific standard of evidence directed by the military judge at trial, and her lawyer agreed with her assessment of the case. However, as noted in her MFR, she did uphold Capt Herrera's conviction for a lesser sexual crime of Indecent Act, leading to his discharge from the Air Force.
The clemency cases combined in public attention in May 2013 with the arrest for sexual battery of an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel assigned to the Air Force's sexual assault prevention program. The Lieutenant Colonel was prosecuted by civilian authorities in Arlington, Virginia, and was unanimously acquitted by a civilian jury of even committing the lesser offense of assault and battery. The issue of sexual assault in the military then received new, sharp attention from President Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, among others. Congressional concern over these events and the issue also brought Marines General Jim Amos, Air Force General Mark Welsh and the Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley to testify on the subject.
Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey was quoted saying, "We're losing the confidence of the women who serve that we can solve this problem.... That's a crisis." Secretary Hagel "ordered the retraining and recertification of U.S. military personnel whose job it is to work to prevent sexual assault and assist the victims". In Congress, the "Military Justice Improvement Act" was announced. The act "would mean that trained military prosecutors, not commanding officers, would decide whether sexual assault cases should go to trial, according to a group of at least 16 U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives behind the legislation. It also would mean commanders cannot set aside the conviction of anyone who has been found guilty of sexual assault or downgrade a conviction to a lesser offense", per Reuters. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) were amongst the sponsoring congress members and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and others reportedly joined as cosponsors. Co-sponsor Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9), who once worked as a rape crisis counselor, said, "It is clear that something is not working."
On 26 June 2013 Rep. Dina Titus (D, NV-1) introduced into the United States House of Representatives the bill To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide veterans with counseling and treatment for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training (H.R. 2527; 113th Congress). The bill would extend a VA program of counseling and care and services for veterans for military sexual trauma that occurred during active duty or active duty for training to include veterans who experienced such trauma during inactive duty training. The bill would alter current law, which allows access to such counseling only to active duty members of the military, so that members of the Reserves and National Guard would be eligible. The Wounded Warrior Project strongly supported the bill, but pointed out a number of additional related challenges and problems that needed to be solved to improve the treatment of MST related conditions in veterans. The WWP did a study of its alumni and found that "almost half of the respondents indicated accessing care through VA for MST related conditions was 'Very difficult'. And of those who did not seek VA care, 41% did not know they were eligible for such care." The WWP also testified that in addition to expanding access to MST care, the VA needed to improve care itself, because veterans report "inadequate screening, providers who were either insensitive or lacked needed expertise, and facilities ill-equipped to appropriately care for MST survivors."
- Sexual harassment in the military
- Sexual assault prevention and response
- Sexual assault
- Sexual violence
- Military sexual trauma
- Women in the military
- Rape in the United States of America
- Rape during the liberation of France
- Rape during the occupation of Germany
- Rape during the occupation of Japan
- Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse
- Institutional betrayal
Individual incidents towards civilians
- 1955 Yumiko-chan incident
- 1991 Tailhook scandal
- 1995 Okinawa rape incident
- 2002 Michael Brown incident
- 2006 Mahmudiyah killings
Individual incidents towards female serving members
- 1996 Aberdeen scandal
- 2003 US Air Force sexual assault scandal
- 2012 US Air Force sexual assault scandal
This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Defense document "Report of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment & Violence at the Military Service Academies". Retrieved on 10 March 2011.
- Meade, Barbara J.; Glenn, Margaret K.; Wirth, Oliver (29 March 2013). "Mission Critical: Getting Vets With PTSD Back to Work". NIOSH: Workplace Safety and Health. Medscape and NIOSH.
- Cooper, Helene. "Pentagon Study Finds 50% Increase in Reports of Military Sexual Assaults". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- Ellison, Jesse (3 April 2011). "The Military's Secret Shame". Newsweek. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
- "Embattled: Retaliation against Sexual Assault Survivors in the US Military". Human Rights Watch. 18 May 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
According to a 2014 Department of Defense survey conducted by RAND Corporation, 62 percent of active service members who reported sexual assault to a military authority in the past year indicated they experienced retaliation as a result of reporting. The survey defined retaliation to include professional retaliation (such as adverse personnel action), social retaliation (ostracism or maltreatment by peers or others) and administrative action or punishments. Because only active service members participate in the survey, service members who left the armed forces—either voluntarily or involuntarily—after reporting a sexual assault are not included, so the actual rate of retaliation may well be higher.
- "Booted: Lack of Recourse for Wrongfully Discharged US Military Rape Survivors". Human Rights Watch. 19 May 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
Many were discharged with a less than honorable discharge (also known as “bad paper”) for misconduct related to their sexual assaults, which can exclude veterans from virtually all benefits. In the course of reporting a sexual assault, the victim may reveal conduct that is prohibited under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (such as adultery or fraternization), which may lead to a discharge. Prior to 2011, male service members in particular risked being thrown out of service for homosexual conduct for reporting rape by a male, even though the conduct was non-consensual. Symptoms of trauma may also impact performance and lead to a misconduct discharge.
- "The Women's War" article by Sara Corbett in the New York Times magazine, 18 March 2007
- "Female Soldiers Raise Alarm on Sexual Assaults" article by Kimberly Hefling msnbc.com
- Gerber M, Iverson K, Dichter ME, Klap R, Latta R. Women veterans and intimate partner violence: Current state of knowledge and future directions. Journal of Women’s Health, 2014; 23: 302-309
- Dichter ME, True G. “This is the story of why my military career ended before it should have:” Premature separation from military service among U.S. women veterans. AFFILIA: Women and Social Work, 2015; 30(2): 187-199. DOI: 10.1177/0886109914555219
- Dichter ME, Wagner C, True G. Women veterans' experiences of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual assault in the context of military service: implications for supporting women's health and well-being. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 2016 Sep 20. [Epub ahead of print]
- Army Study Guide: "Army Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program". Retrieved 4 June 2013.
- "Report of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies" (PDF). Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies Academic Program Year 2010-2011: Report to the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate and the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
The 65 reports represent an increase from the 41 reports made in APY 09-10. The Department does not have the ability to conclusively identify the reasons for this increase in reporting behavior. However, in prior years’ assessments, the Department identified steps the academies could take to encourage more victims to report. Some of the increased reporting of sexual assault may be attributed to these efforts as well as many other factors.
- Marshall, Serena (17 November 2011). "Sexual Assault in the Military: New Legislation Seeks to Alter Reporting Process". ABC News. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
Out of the 13 percent of victims that report, 90 percent are involuntarily honorably discharged, as was the case for Odam.
- "Speier Speaks Out Against Military Handling of Sexual Assault". Human Events Powerful Conservative Voices. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
A study conducted by the Military Rape Crisis Center reports over 90 percent of all victims are involuntarily discharged from service while more often than not the assailants are given a slap on the wrist, often promoted or given an Honorable Discharge, she said.
- "U.S. Commission on Civil Rights 2013 Statutory Report on Sexual Assault in the Military" (PDF). www.usccr.gov. 2013-09-30. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- "The Invisible War - Rape and Sexual Assault in the Military - Independent Lens - PBS".
- SPEIER, REP. JACKIE. "Assaults in armed forces must stop immediately - NY Daily News".
- Koons, Jennifer (9 August 2013). "Sexual Assault in the Military". CQ Researcher: 693–716.
- Scarborough, Rowen (20 May 2013). "Victims of sex assaults in military are mostly men". Washington Times. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
When the Defense Department released the results of its anonymous sexual abuse survey this month and concluded that 26,000 service members were victims in fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30, an automatic assumption was that most were women. But roughly 14,000 of the victims were male and 12,000 female, according to a scientific survey sample produced by the Pentagon.
Benkof, David (27 August 2014). "Same-Sex Rape In The Military On The Rise". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
An article in the September issue of GQ discuses the recent increase in same-sex rape in the armed forces. It reports, with many examples, that most victims of sexual assault in the armed forces are men, and that their rapists are nearly always other men.
Brown, Matthew Hay (14 December 2013). "Breaking the silence". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
The outrage over sexual assault in the military has focused largely on female service members, and with reason: A woman in uniform is much likelier to be targeted than a man, Pentagon surveys indicate. But because male service members greatly outnumber females, officials know the majority of sexual assault victims — 53 percent in 2012 — are men even though they acknowledge that the rate is disproportionally high among women.
- Turchik, Jessica; Susan Wilson (2010-04-15). "Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military: A Review of the Literature and Recommendations for the Future". Aggression and Violent Behavior. 15 (4): 267–277. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2010.01.005. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "HOME". www.sapr.mil.
- Parker, Ashley (15 Feb. 2011). Lawsuit Says Military Is Rife With Sexual Abuse. New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
- Hefling, Kimberly (16 Feb. 2011). U.S. Veterans Say Military is Mishandling Rape Case. The Day.
- Levinson, Nan. War Is Not a Game, 2014, 266(n).
- "Air Force general's reversal of pilot's conviction for sexual assault angers lawmakers". Articles.washingtonpost.com. 2011-02-28. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "General's promotion blocked over her dismissal of sex-assault verdict". The Washington Post. 2011-02-28. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
- Helms, Susan. "Disapproval of Findings in U.S. vs. Herrera" (PDF). U.S. Air Force. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
- Taranto, James (23 March 2014). "Meet Col. Williams". The Wall Street Journal.
- "Air Force Lt. Col. acquitted of groping woman in lot". CNN.com. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- Dowd, Maureen, "America’s Military Injustice", New York Times, 7 May 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- Davidson, Amy, "Military Sexual Assault: Shame Isn’t Enough", The New Yorker Close Read blog, 8 May 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- Zengerle, Patricia, "Top U.S. general warns of sexual assault 'crisis,' meets Obama", Reuters, 16 May 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- "Gillibrand, Collins, Boxer, Johanns, Benishek, Gabbard, Begich, Blumenthal, Coons, Franken, Hirono, Mikulski, Pryor, Schatz, Shaheen, Rockefeller, Hanna, Sinema, Joined by Service Members Victimized by Sexual Assault in Announcing Bicameral Legislation Reforming Military Justice System", search result at gillibrand.com. Search was for first eight names in headline. Link to actual press release was dead. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- MNCentral, "Franken Co-Sponsors Military Justice Improvement Act; Will Kline Call It a Knee-Jerk Reaction", MN Political Roundtable, 17 May 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
- "H.R. 2527 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
- Neiweem, Christopher J. (27 March 2014). "Submission for the Record of VetsFirst". House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
- "Submission for the Record of Wounded Warrior Project". House Committee on Veterans Affairs. 27 March 2014. Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
- "United States Department of Defense: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response". Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "Sexual Assault in the Military" U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, ISBN 978-1499339406, ISBN 1499339402.
- CSPAN Video Library search: Sexual Assault in the Military
- Sexual Assault Crimes Panel 27 June 2013
- U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Briefing on Sexual Assault in the Military 11 January 2013
- Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office
- The New York Times search: Sexual Assault in the Military
- "Report of The Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment & Violence at the Military Service Academies" June 2005
- "Sexual Assaults in Military bring Shame, Not Action," USA Today editorial, 27 March 2005
- Uniform Betrayal: Rape in the Military documentary produced by HealthyState.org (Health News from Florida Public Media)
- "Report of The Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services" December 2009
- Army Sex Crimes Blog
- Female Marine vets say sexist culture put them at risk By Jennifer Hlad Stars and Stripes Published: 11 October 2012
- The Nation: The Plight of Women Soldiers by Helen Benedict
- "Son, Men Don't Get Raped" by Nathaniel Penn GQ article about male survivors of military rape