Protect Our Defenders News Blog


PRESS RELEASE: New Report Show Pentagon Misleads Public on Sexual Assault Crisis


June 9, 2015



Washington, D.C. – Today, Protect Our Defenders (POD) released an analysis of recent Department of Defense (DoD) statistics in response to a fresh attempt by the Pentagon to downplay the impact of sexual assault in the military. Ahead of a Senate vote on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill, the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), which has been introduced as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, the Pentagon circulated an infographic that cherry picks information and blatantly ignores troubling statistics that point to the widespread mistreatment of survivors that was exposed in a recent RAND survey commissioned by the Pentagon.

MJIA is a conservative, bipartisan bill that would remove the decision to prosecute rape and sexual assault cases from a conflicted and often biased chain of command and put it in the hands of independent military prosecutors. As the report conducted by RAND makes evident, victims still do not trust the system: in 2014, 1 in 3 victims believed that reporting would hurt their career, the process would be unfair, or that nothing would be done, and 1 in 4 feared retaliation from their chain of command or coworkers. Further, 60 percent of sexual harassment victims were harassed by someone in their chain of command.

Last month during a joint press conference, Human Rights Watch and POD announced the release of an 18-month investigation that found servicemembers who report sexual assault frequently experience retaliation that goes unpunished. The 113-page report uncovered that military victims who report their attacks are “12 times more likely to experience retaliation than to see their attacker convicted.”

Today, Former Air Force Chief Prosecutor and Protect Our Defenders President Col Don Christensen (ret.) released the following statement:

“The military brass’s tireless resistance to reform has spilled over to attacking the very survivors they claim to protect. The Pentagon continually minimized the existence of pervasive retaliation by claiming it is a ‘perception’ problem of survivors rather than a failure of leadership. The recent Human Rights Watch report leaves no doubt of the stark reality and heavy price paid by survivors. While retaliation is pervasive, the Pentagon dismisses its severity by using a flawed survey to champion ‘survivor satisfaction.’ They conveniently ignore the stark truth contained in their own RAND study, showing the majority of survivors are dissatisfied with their leadership and continue to lack confidence in the system.”

[INFOGRAPHIC] Protect Our Defenders: Pentagon Misleads on Sexual Assault

Reuters: Retaliation hurts military bid to curb sexual assault: report

Human Rights Watch: Embattled: Retaliation against Sexual Assault Survivors in the US Military

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Snapshot Review of Sexual Assault Report Files at the Four Largest U.S. Military Bases in 2013

New York Times: Reports of Sexual Assaults in Military on Rise

Associated Press: Sen. Gillibrand accuses Pentagon of withholding sex crimes info

About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders (POD) is a human rights organization.  We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country and re-victimized by the military adjudication system. POD provides pro bono casework and legal assistance to survivors. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at