(May 16, 2013) — The Department of Defense’s newly-released annual report  estimates that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in the prior year. The report, based on an anonymous survey of military members, says that only 3,374 victims reported their attack. Forty-seven percent of victims cited a fear of retaliation or reprisal as their reason for not reporting, while 43% said they had heard about negative experiences of other victims who reported their attack.
Calling this “one of the most serious challenges facing the department,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced steps to increase officers’ accountability for what happens under their commands, and to inspect military facilities, including military academies, for inappropriate work environments. Separately, a new Congressionally mandated task force is charged with assessing DoD’s systems for adjudicating sexual assault crimes. Both the House and Senate are considering additional legislation to change the military justice system in order to encourage more reports and more prosecutions.
The report came just days after the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, by Arlington, VA, police on charges of sexual battery.
RAINN operates the DoD Safe Helpline  through a contract with the Defense Department. Safe Helpline provides live, one-on-one support and information to the worldwide DoD community. The service is confidential, anonymous and secure; the content of conversations are not shared with DoD or the user’s chain of command. Last month, the program launched Safe HelpRoom , a secure moderated group chat service and allows survivors in the military to connect with and support one another.