By Dennis RyanMarch 18, 2008
FORT MYER, Va. (Army News Service, March 18, 2008) -- Defense officials released the "Report on Sexual Assault in the Military" for the 2007 fiscal year March 14, revealing out of 2,688 reported cases, about 2,000 of the victims opted to share information with law enforcement officers .
The military created a new category of reporting in June of 2005. Under "restricted" reporting, victims receive medical help and counseling, evidence is collected but no investigation is started. There were 705 confidential or restricted reports in 2007, but 102 victims later changed their report to unrestricted.
In "unrestricted" reporting, the cases are handed over to law enforcement officials for investigation.
Kaye Whitley, director, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Center, said the department added the restricted reporting option because notifying commanders was a possible "barrier" to reporting and getting help for the victim.
"The command is not notified who the individual is, although the command is notified if a sexual assault took place, and that person then gets all of the psychological care and medical assistance they need without an investigation," she said.
Since the 2007 report was switched to coincide with the fiscal year 2007, it cannot be entirely compared with 2006, officials said, since one quarter of the 2006 calendar year is included in this year's report.
About 60 percent of all reports concerned alleged rape and 72 percent of the victims were service members.
For the 603 "restricted" reports, 69 percent were alleged rape cases.
Action was taken against about half of the accused in the completed investigations. There were 181 courts martial, 201 non-judicial punishments and 218 administrative actions and discharges.
Some 75 percent of the reports were labeled unfounded or lacking in sufficient evidence.
The Army's chief of public affairs, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, and Carolyn Collins, the program manager for the Army's sexual assault and prevention response, met with the press after the report was released.
Cucolo said the Army senior leadership is concerned about the numbers.
"We're in about the fourth year of our program and we've built what we believe to be a solid culture of awareness and reporting," he said. "They [senior leadership] don't like the numbers -- too high. They see a plateau."
Cucolo said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey has issued a directive to all commanders in the field to evaluate their prevention programs.
Collins said training and awareness of the problem is crucial at all levels from the schoolhouse to pre- and post-deployment.
The Army's rate in the forward areas is actually lower than the Army-wide statistics. The sexual assaults reported in Central Command were 0.83 per thousand as opposed to 2.6 percent in the Army at large, Collins said.
The Army's chief of public affairs attributed the lower rates to strong unit cohesion in the combat zones, along with little free time and a lack of alcohol. Alcohol is a factor in 50 percent of all sexual assaults, all the speakers said.
Rachel Lipari, senior scientist, Defense Manpower Data Center, discussed the "2006 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members" after Whitey spoke.
Some 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men experienced unwanted sexual conduct according to the survey. Most service members report receiving training.
Overall, 93 percent of women and 92 percent of men said they had training on sexual harassment in the previous year, Lipari said.
(Dennis Ryan writes for the Pentagram newspaper at Fort Myer, Va.)