The number of sex-related crimes occurring in U.S. military communities is far greater than the Defense Department has publicly reported, a U.S. senator said Monday in a scathing critique that asserts the Pentagon has refused to provide her information about sexual assaults at several major bases.
The spouses of service members and civilian women who live or work near military facilities are especially vulnerable to being sexually assaulted, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a report. Yet they “remain in the shadows” because neither is counted in surveys conducted by the Defense Department to determine the prevalence of sexual assaults within the ranks, the report said.
“I don’t think the military is being honest about the problem,” Gillibrand said in an interview.
The senator said her analysis of 107 sexual assault cases found punishments that were too lenient and the word of the alleged assailant was more likely to be believed than the victim. Less than a quarter of the cases went to trial and just 11 resulted in conviction for a sex crime. Female civilians were the victims in more than half the cases, according to Gillibrand, an outspoken advocate for an overhaul of the military justice system.
In its annual report on sexual assaults in the military released Friday, the Defense Department reported progress in staunching the epidemic of sexual assaults. It estimated that sex crimes are decreasing and more victims are choosing to report them — a sign that there is more confidence that offenders will be held accountable.