August 31, 2022
The number of servicemembers experiencing unwanted sexual contact increased from 20,000 in 2018 to 36,000 in 2022
Washington, DC – Today, the Pentagon released its Annual Report on Sexual Assault and Prevention (SAPR) in the Military. The report, which provides a yearly review of the state of sexual assault across the four branches of the military, detailed the highest reported estimate of rape and sexual assault in the military’s history.
Close to 36,000 servicemembers reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact. Broken down further, the numbers equate to 8.4% of women at nearly 16,000 servicemembers and 1.5% of men at nearly 15,000 servicemembers. This is a significant increase from the 2018 SAPR report, which detailed that 20,000 servicemembers had experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact.
It’s critical that Congress ensure the reforms included in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – which officially empowers independent military prosecutors to determine whether those accused of sexual assault, rape and other serious offenses will be prosecuted – are implemented promptly. The military’s culture of sexual assault is longstanding and will continue to persist as long as Congress allows military leadership to skirt accountability.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“The numbers released today are shocking. Despite a decade of empty promises of zero tolerance and over a billion dollars spent to reduce sexual assault within its ranks, sexual assault and rape is at its highest levels ever recorded in the military. The 35% increase in sex assaults is a direct consequence of leadership’s failure to support real reform. If leadership had supported, rather than obstructed, removing commanders’ prosecution authority years ago, the military would be in a much better place now.
“Instead, the men and women serving are paying the price for leadership’s stubborn insistence that commanders alone would solve this scourge. Thankfully, due to the persistence of Sen Gillibrand and Rep Speier and the support of President Biden, real reform finally passed last year.
“These disturbing numbers should be a wake up call for the generals and admirals to fully support the new system that will empower independent military prosecutors – not commanders – to make prosecution decisions. The military has a responsibility to implement the 2022 NDAA reforms that ensure independent career military prosecutors, not commanders, have prosecutorial authority to hold military leadership accountable. It’s past time now for commanders to seriously work on reforming the culture of the military that is too accepting of sexual assault and harassment.”