Protect Our Defenders News Blog


Statement: Pentagon Presents Misleading Claims on Rates of Retaliation Against Survivors


May 5, 2016



A report released today by the Pentagon shows that reporting rates remain unchanged and victims continue to be dissatisfied with the military justice system. The report includes data from an unscientific survey that attempts to redefine retaliation and minimize the severity of widespread retaliation against sexual assault survivors, and paint a more favorable light on this crisis.

Washington, D.C. — On the heels of an Associated Press investigation and Protect Our Defenders report exposing the Pentagon’s efforts to mislead Congress to undermine military justice reform, today the Department of Defense (DOD) released a report claiming progress in combatting the sexual assault epidemic, which in fact shows no evidence of improvement.

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

“The Pentagon is once again manipulating the data. First, they gave false information to Congress to block military justice reform. Now, as sexual assault reporting rates have stalled, they are attempting to redefine retaliation to hide the scope of the problem. This is yet another example of the Pentagon spin machine spending more time covering up the problem and fabricating progress rather than solving the problem.

“Contrary to Pentagon claims that retaliation is down, a senior defense official admitted this afternoon on a conference call that retaliation has not in fact decreased. Despite claims of progress, the findings of this report show that after years of empty promises from the Department of Defense to solve the problem, rates of sexual assault, reporting, and retaliation have not improved. This is an insult to the tens of thousands of sexual assault survivors whose lives and careers have been destroyed by the repercussions they faced for simply reporting their assault.

“It is time for Congress and the President to take action to support a system of justice that is impartial and independent of the chain of command.”

The report finds that sexual assault reports remain stagnant, with the vast majority of survivors unwilling to come forward and report a sexual assault. Rates of sexual assault and retaliation have not improved over 2010 levels. DOD is further claiming retaliation against victims has decreased by redefining the problem in an unscientific survey. However, retaliation remains a widespread problem facing survivors according to a comprehensive survey by the RAND Corporation commissioned by the DOD.

In response to reports that retaliation had improved, POD received the following e-mail from a service member who recently reported a sexual assault:

“Knowing what I know today, I don’t know if I would have reported the assault at all. I don’t know if I could tell someone else they should report an assault. I just read the Air Force Times story about the Pentagon reporting to congress that retaliation is down. It made me furious and hurt.”

Associated Press: Pentagon says fewer sex-assault victims faced retaliation

The Hill: Advocacy group seeks probe into DOD statements on sexual assault

Associated Press: Pentagon misled lawmakers on military sexual assault cases

Debunked: Fact-Checking the Pentagon’s Claims Regarding Military Justice

VICE News: US Lawmakers Suspect the Pentagon of Lying to Them About Military Sexual Assault Cases

Stars and Stripes: Senators want investigation of Winnefeld’s sexual assault comments

Associated Press: Defense secretary investigating accuracy of sex crimes cases

VIDEO: The Pentagon’s Misleading Claims on Military Justice

Washington Post: Pentagon misled Congress about military’s handling of sexual assault cases, report says

New York Magazine: AP Report Says the Pentagon Misled Congress on Sexual-Assault Cases Within the Military

About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders (POD) is a human rights organization. We are the only national organization solely dedicated to addressing the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military and to combating a culture of pervasive sexual harassment and retribution against victims. We honor, support and give voice to survivors of military sexual assault – including both service members and civilians assaulted by members of the military. We seek reform to ensure all survivors have access to a fair, impartially administered system of justice. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at