Protect Our Defenders News Blog



April 30, 2018



#MeToo movement encourages more survivors to report but Pentagon remains slow to react; Despite decades of promises, prosecution rates are plummeting — continuing a trend of a lack of accountability

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its Annual Report on Sexual Violence and Harassment at the Military Service Academies. The Pentagon’s findings show that despite being the world’s largest employer, leadership within the United States military continues to fail to address the crisis in our armed forces. In the midst of the #MeToo Movement, the new report shows that sexual assault reports increased by 10% yet prosecution rates are plummeting. Military leadership has been promising change within a misogynistic work culture for over 25 years and yet, there seems to be very little progress. Even now, as the #MeToo Movement heats up and divides into others like #IWasWrong and #notinmymarines, military leaders are slow to hold their guilty counterparts accountable.

The new Pentagon report states that of the 5,110 unrestricted reports of sexual assault, only 406 actually went to court-martial resulting in only 166 convictions. Despite decades of promises of “Zero Tolerance” assailants are not being prosecuted. In 2013, 39% of cases sent to commanders for action resulted in charges being initiated; however, the percentage dropped sharply to 22% in 2017. Moreover, survivors are sending a clear message they do not trust the commander controlled justice system. Barely 50% of survivors said they were satisfied with the chain of command and the percentage of survivors refusing to participate after making an unrestricted report leapt from 9% in 2016 to 14% in 2017 which is the highest rate since 2010.

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 is not a good news story. Reports of sexual assaults jumped by 10%, and we do not know if this is a result of an increase in sexual assaults or an increase in victims to report or a combination of both. What we do know, the numbers are part of a continuing trend of a lack of accountability. Prosecution rates continue to plummet despite an ever-increasing number of reports. Moreover, actual convictions remain abysmally low.”

“Is it any wonder survivors drop out of the process when 73% of their retaliation reports are against someone in the chain of command. Increased reports should be leading to a corresponding increase in prosecutions and convictions. Sadly, that is not the case. The hostile and ineffective military justice system is failing to deliver for the brave survivors who step forward. Instead of justice, survivors are facing an ever-increasing accountability gap created by increased reporting yet plunging prosecution rates.”

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