- Congress requires the Department to provide an annual report on sexual assaults involving members of the United States Armed Forces. This report satisfies that requirement.
- The Department uses the phrase “sexual assault” to refer to a range of crimes, including rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, and attempts to commit these offenses, as defined by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
What they found
- The Department’s biennial survey indicates estimated prevalence of sexual assault in Fiscal Year 2018 increased for active duty women ages 17 to 24, but remained statistically unchanged for active duty men, compared to rates measured in Fiscal Year 2016.
- Sexual assault reporting rates stayed about the same in Fiscal Year 2018, compared to Fiscal Year 2016. One in three Service members reported their sexual assault allegation to a Department of Defense authority.
- The Department had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action in 65 percent of subject cases completed in Fiscal Year 2018.
The Department will:
- Unify efforts to reduce sexual assault through the Prevention Plan of Action
- Prepare and hold new leaders and first-line supervisors accountable for advancing a culture free from sexual assault.
- Enhance support for Service members and their adult dependents who experience sexual assault and retaliatory behavior associated with reporting.
The full report is available and consultative services to further promote reporting and online at SAPR.mil.
The Department of Defense strives to advance a military culture free from sexual assault.
For over a decade, the Department has made considerable investments in policies and actions to prevent and respond to sexual assaults through its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. Each year, the Department assesses these efforts. Key data and actions for Fiscal Year 2018 include the following:
Estimated prevalence of sexual assault for active duty women increased, but remained unchanged for men.
The Department’s scientific survey of the active duty force in Fiscal Year 2018 found that the estimated past-year prevalence (number of Service members endorsing an experience) of sexual assault increased, primarily for female Service members ages 17 to 24. About 6.2 percent of active duty women indicated experiencing a sexual assault in the year prior to being surveyed. This rate reflects a statistically significant increase compared to the 4.3 percent for women measured in 2016. The estimated prevalence rate for active duty men remained statistically unchanged at 0.7 percent. Using these rates, the Department estimates 20,500 Service members, representing about 13,000 women and 7,500 men, experienced some kind of contact or penetrative sexual assault in 2018, up from approximately 14,900 in 2016.
Sexual assault in the military occurs most often between junior enlisted acquaintances who are peers or near peers in rank.
This year’s force-wide survey showed that the vast majority of sexual assaults of Service members occurred between people aged 17 to 24 who work, train, or live in close proximity. Military women indicated that offenders were most often military men whom they considered to be a friend or acquaintance, acting alone. In addition, the alleged offender’s rank was most often the same as the victim’s or one rank higher, with most alleged incidents involving junior enlisted women in the grades of E3 and E4. While men experienced fewer sexual assaults than women, they endorsed many of the same offense experiences. However, men indicated a different combination of offenders with regard to sex: just over half of men indicated their offender was male, 30 percent indicated their offender was female, and 13 percent indicated their offenders were a mix of men and women acting together.
About one in three Service members report their experience of sexual assault to a Department of Defense authority.
The Department first put policy in place to encourage greater reporting of sexual assault when it enacted the Restricted Reporting option in June 2005. Since that time, the Department has fielded a comprehensive suite of recovery and consultative services to further promote reporting and empower participation in the military justice system. Over the past decade, reporting rates have quadrupled, allowing the Department to connect a greater share of victimized Service members with restorative care and services. In Fiscal Year 2018, 6,053 Service members made a report of sexual assault for an incident that occurred during military service, which equates to about a 30 percent reporting rate. This is on par with the reporting rate for Fiscal duty women in Fiscal Year 2018 reported at a higher rate (38 percent) than active duty men (17 percent).
Climate factors influenced the risk for sexual assault.
Survey results found that most Service members indicated working in relatively healthy workplace climates. However, for members indicating sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and/or hostility as part of their workplace, risk of sexual assault increased measurably. For example, women who experienced sexual harassment were at three times greater risk for sexual assault than average. While men have a much lower risk of sexual assault compared to women, men who experienced sexual harassment were at twelve times greater risk for sexual assault than average. In sum, survey results found a positive correlation between unhealthy workplace climates and the risk of sexual assault.
Response initiatives enhanced support available to Service members.
The Department’s response system aims to advocate for all military Service members and their adult dependents by encouraging sexual assault reporting, promoting recovery, facilitating treatment, and improving military readiness. The Department continued efforts to enhance the capabilities of Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates through the Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program. In addition, representatives from the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office traveled worldwide to help military communities understand and employ Departmental services available through the Safe Helpline, Safe HelpRoom, and Safe Helpline mobile application. Lastly, the Department executed elements of its Plan to Prevent and Respond to the Sexual Assault of Military Men by holding an expert symposium on male victimization, coordinating messaging efforts, and producing a needs assessment for male victims.
About one quarter of Service members making Restricted Reports converted to Unrestricted Reports and participated in the military justice process.
The Department offers Service members the opportunity to make an Unrestricted or a Restricted Report of sexual assault. When victims convert their Restricted Report to an Unrestricted Report, they choose to participate in justice system efforts to hold alleged offenders appropriately accountable.1 The Military Services initially received 2,366 Restricted Reports from Service members in Fiscal Year 2018. Of the 2,366 Service members who made initial Restricted Reports, 548 (23 percent) chose to convert to an Unrestricted Report in Fiscal Year 2018. These 548 converted Restricted Reports are now counted in the 5,805 Unrestricted Reports received in Fiscal Year 2018. The other 1,818 reports remained Restricted at the end of the year. This year’s conversion rate is consistent with rates observed in prior years.
Commanders had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action in two-thirds of accused members’ cases.
The Department takes disciplinary action in every case where it has the jurisdictional authority and evidence to do so. In addition, every decision to take disciplinary action is based on evidence discovered during an independent investigation by a Military Criminal Investigative Organization. This year, the Department had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action in 65 percent of cases (up from 62 percent in Fiscal Year 2017) within its legal authority. Disciplinary action was not possible for the remaining 33 percent of cases due to legal factors, such as insufficient evidence of an offense to prosecute or the victim declining to participate in the legal process. Just under three percent of subject cases were unfounded, meaning evidence existed to find that the crime did not occur or that the accused did not commit the crime.
Prevention efforts advanced system-wide capacity building and guidance development.
This year, the Department facilitated training to equip the Military Services with tools to prepare their personnel and organizations for sexual assault prevention. In addition, the Department launched the second phase of its Applied Prevention Program by identifying installations to employ an evidence-based planning process. Six military organizations and the Military Service Academies will work with teams of experts to improve prevention program design, implementation, and evaluation. The Department also continued development of the Prevention Plan of Action, which will guide efforts to develop the human resources, collaborative relationships, and infrastructure necessary for effective research-based prevention.
Military Services implemented Department-directed initiatives to target retaliatory behavior.
Service members should not face retaliatory behavior associated with reporting sexual assault. In efforts to address and prevent retaliation, the Department continued execution of its Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy Implementation Plan. The Military Departments and National Guard continued to update policy, processes, and programs to support Service members who report sexual assault and sexual harassment with resources consistent with the Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy. In addition, installation Case Management Groups led by senior officers met monthly to review retaliation allegations, support victim reporting, and provide assistance.
This year’s increased prevalence of sexual assault indicates that the crime is a persistent challenge that does not remit easily. Efforts that previously reduced the crime since Fiscal Year 2012 must now change, particularly for Service members aged 17 to 24 who are most at risk for sexual assault. Risk factors for sexual assault victimization are persistent and multifaceted and require a comprehensive and systematic approach to prevention. Consequently, in Fiscal Year 2019, the Department will issue the Prevention Plan of Action, a coordinated approach to optimize the Department prevention system with targeted efforts towards this young cadre of military members and others at increased risk for sexual assault perpetration or victimization. In addition, the Department will ensure that supervisors of junior enlisted personnel receive improved preparation to better promote and sustain respectful workplaces. In the summer of 2019, the Department will conduct focus groups with 17 to 24-year-old members to identify actions and initiatives that may more effectively shift behavior among this group.
Stopping sexual assault perpetration also demands renewed action. In Fiscal Year 2019, the Department will launch the Catch A Serial Offender Program, allowing Service members making Restricted Reports to confidentially provide information about the alleged offender and incident. Should investigators discover a match in other reported incidents, members will be notified and provided an opportunity to convert their report from Restricted to Unrestricted and participate in the military justice process.
Finally, the Department must identify and correct those unhealthy workplace climates giving rise to increased risk of sexual assault. While all military Services employ the Department’s climate assessment process, more can be done to help leaders identify and understand these challenges. Consequently, the Department will work to provide leaders with a solution that allows for consolidated analysis of a variety of climate factors and a suite of actions they can consider to address workplace challenges.
1 The use of the words “perpetrator/offender” is not intended as a statement as to the guilt or innocence of an individual. Without knowing the specific outcomes of the incidents upon which survey responses are derived, the presumption of innocence applies until there is an investigation that substantiates the allegations and there is adjudication of guilt.
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