The numbers are rather shocking: From October 2012 through June 2013, the U.S. Department of Defense received more than 3,500 military sexual assault reports, according to the Pentagon. That's nearly a 50 percent bump from the same timeframe during the previous year. This new information comes as the Senate will hear a panel Thursday and Friday about reducing the number of sexual assaults in the military.
The Pentagon report tallied sexual assaults by military members on civilians and vice-versa, and it did not include sexual harassment. Rape, sodomy, and other unwanted sexual contact constitutes sexual assault, according to the report. Surprisingly, about 10 percent of the reported cases occurred before the victim entered the military.
The Senate is also expected to vote this month on a new defense bill that will include changes to how the military justice system handles sexual assault cases. There are a few options on the table. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wants to take assault cases outside of the military chain of command, but the Pentagon is opposed to her proposal. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., offers a measure that would limit commanders' ability to overturn jury verdicts and restrain their ability to order dishonorable discharges for military members found guilty of sexual assault. And Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., offers a measure that would excuse sexually assaulted military members from testifying at oft-daunting pretrial hearings.
The 50 percent jump is both a positive and negative statistic. On the one hand, it's good that military members seem to be speaking up more about abuse suffered at the hands of their colleagues, but it's disturbing that the increase is so drastic. The numbers beg the question: How many people in the past have kept quiet about sexual assault or have not been sufficiently helped by their commanding officers when they have come forward?
Despite the current uproar over sexual assault, that hasn't stopped the military from meeting its recruitment quotas. Women make up 15 percent of enlisted members, and the armed services makes sure to cater to them in advertising, as Bustle's reported:
In addition to specifically targeting women with advertisements on TV channels like E! Entertainment Television and Bravo, there’s an element of class that plays a role in some women’s decision to enlist. The generally unpredictable and bad economy makes the military an appealing option for those seeking opportunities in higher education and a stable career.
Numbers of sexual assault reports have skyrocketed in the past few years. And the majority — 53 percent — are actually men assaulted by other men in the military. In 2011, the survey found that about 26,000 men and women in the military were sexually assaulted, whereas 19,000 cases were reported in 2010.