Washington, DC – Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies. The Pentagon report shows a continued failure to address the crisis of sexual assault and harassment. Sexual assault reports skyrocketed 32% amongst cadets and midshipmen since the previous report was released in 2018.
The report also acknowledges the role of retaliation in reporting sexual assaults in the military, noting that reporting an assault can be risky to students’ academic and military careers. Cadets and midshipmen said they feared reporting an assault would damage their reputations and ostracize them from their peers. The issue of retaliation extends beyond the academies to the military itself. Military personnel who report sexual assault are 12 times as likely to experience some form of retaliation as to see their attacker convicted of a sex offense.
Today’s Pentagon report follows the announcement of a presidential candidate pledge — launched by Protect Our Defenders and military sexual assault survivors earlier this week — demanding the next Commander-in-Chief commit to fundamental military justice reform. This commitment would remove prosecutorial authority from the chain of command and empower independent, trained military prosecutors to investigate sexual assaults. Ten of the twelve Democratic candidates, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang, have signed on.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United State Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“This report is a reflection of what we already know. The Pentagon has repeatedly failed to address the sexual assault crisis gripping its ranks and, as a result, the problem continues to grow.
“Year after year, military leadership has lauded a focus on prevention despite zero evidence that preventative measures are working. In fact, the opposite is true. If the Pentagon was truly focused on holding offenders accountable, they would adopt fundamental military justice reform to put sexual assault cases in the hands of professionals. Instead, their continued obstruction of reform has led to a dramatic increase in sexual assaults and harassment, not only affecting those who bravely serve in our military, but its next generation of leaders as well.
“This is precisely why Protect Our Defenders launched a pledge alongside survivors of military sexual assault to demand the next Commander-In-Chief commit to empowering experienced military prosecutors with the ability to prosecute sexual assault.”
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, Academic Program Year 2018-2019: https://www.sapr.mil/reports
USA Today: Sexual assault reports by cadets, midshipmen at military academies surge by 32%: https://www.usatoday.com/