National News

Reports of Sexual Assault in the Military Rise 10 Percent, Pentagon Finds

Posted April 30, 2018 10:20 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — More than 6,700 Defense Department employees reported being sexually assaulted in fiscal 2017 — the highest number since the U.S. military began tracking reports more than a decade ago, according to Pentagon data released on Monday.

The new data showed a 10 percent increase of military sexual assault reports from the previous fiscal year. The uptick occurred amid a Marine Corps scandal over sharing nude photos and heightened public discourse about sexual harassment in American culture.

Pentagon officials sought to portray the increase as reflective of more troops and military civilians trusting commanders and the military’s judicial system enough to come forward.

In all, 6,769 people reported assaults for fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30. It was the largest yearly increase since 2014 and the most reports since the Pentagon started tracking the data in 2006.

Roughly two-thirds of the reports resulted in disciplinary action, the data show. The remaining 38 percent were discounted because evidence was lacking, victims declined to participate in hearings or other reasons.

The Army, Navy and Air Force each saw a roughly 10 percent uptick in sexual assault reports. The increase nearly reached 15 percent in the Marine Corps.

Separately, roughly 700 complaints of sexual harassment were reported across the military in fiscal 2017, according to the Pentagon data. Ninety percent of the reports were from enlisted troops.

In March 2017, a social media group made up of active duty and former Marines was accused of sharing explicit photos of female colleagues, prompting a widespread investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. A number of Marines were punished, and the service started a campaign to educate its troops on sexual harassment and assault.

Despite efforts to rid the internet of military-themed groups such as the one found last year, others have continued to pop up.

Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, said the service was in a “better place” after the scandal.

Lawmakers have long hammered the military on its predominantly male culture and have sometimes lobbied for military courts to be civilian run so due process is absent of command influence.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who last week called sexual assault a “cancer” in the military, has demanded that leaders throughout the ranks make sure the problem does not spread.