DOD Sexual Assault Report

By Caitlin Taylor

Mar 17, 2009 3:01pm

ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports: The Pentagon’s annual report on sexual assault shows a sharp 8 percent increase overall in reports of sexual assault over last year’s survey, but data compiled for the report show an even sharper 26 percent increase specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense officials attribute the increase in part to greater awareness to report sexual assault and rules that make it easier to report sexual assaults. In fiscal year 2008, the Pentagon says the military services received a total of 2,923 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims or assailants, an 8 percent increase compared to the 2,688 reports filed in fiscal year 2007. 63 percent of all the reports filed in fiscal year 2008 involved allegations of rape or aggravated sexual assault. Fiscal year 2008 is defined as beginning on October 1, 2007 and ending on September 30, 2008. "The increase in reports means the Department’s policy of encouraging victims to come forward is making a difference" said Dr. Kaye Whitley, Director of Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. Filing the assaults under a category known as restricted reporting removes barriers in reporting sexual assault crimes for military victims. Under this option, victims get access to psychological and medical care, but choose not to pursue a criminal investigation while maintaining their anonynimity. The victims then have a year to pursue charges if they change their mind. Restricted reporting was first offered as an option a few years ago because Pentagon officials said some victims were foregoing services rather than participate in the investigative process and risk their commanders being notified.  Of the 2,908 reports filed in FY 2008, 753 were initially filed under the restricted program, but 110 later decided to pursue legal charges and switched their report to the unrestricted category. "While we don’t want to pressure victims, we would like to see more people convert their reports or to report initally unrestricted so that we can hold all offenders accountable," said Dr. Whitley. Data compiled for the survey found a 26 percent increase of sexual assault reporting over last year among U.S. troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Whitley speculated the rise in reports in those two countries was due in large part to the awareness campaigns the Pentagon has conducted in those two countries. The services investigated 2,763 cases in fiscal year 2008 of which 832 resulted in command action that included courts-martial, non-judicial punishment and other administrative actions or discharges. The 317 courts martial in fiscal year 2008 represented 38 percent of all command actions, an increase over the 30 percent in fiscal year 2007.    For the Pentagon, the term sexual assault includes offenses ranging from rape to indecent assault and attempts at those crimes. The DoD is required by Congress to provide an annual report detailing the number of sexual assaults in the military involving military victims and military assailants.

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