Reports by members of the military of sexual assaults jumped by an unprecedented 50 percent last year, in what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declared a “clear threat” to both male and female service members’ lives and well-being.
The latest numbers reflected an aggressive campaign by the Pentagon to persuade victims to come forward, but Hagel and others said Thursday they need to do more to get men to report assaults — a challenge in a military culture that values strength. Hagel said an estimated half of sexual-assault victims in the military are men, yet only 14 percent of reported assaults involve male victims.
Hagel told a news conference he has ordered Pentagon officials to increase their efforts to get male victims to report sexual abuse and also has asked the military services to review their alcohol sales and policies. In as many as two-thirds of reported sexual assault cases, alcohol is involved.
“We have to fight the cultural stigmas that discourage reporting and be clear that sexual assault does not occur because a victim is weak, but rather because an offender disregards our values and the law,” Hagel said.