FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 1, 2014 Contact: Brian Purchia, firstname.lastname@example.org
*** STATEMENT ***
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS RESPONDS TO PENTAGON REPORT ON SEXUAL ASSAULT
Washington DC – Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released their annual report on sexual assault in the military, which highlights the need for fundamental reform, transparency, and accountability. According to DoD’s FY13 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office’s annual survey, reports of rape and sexual assault have increased over 50%–from 3,374 total reports, with 2,558 unrestricted and 816 restricted, in 2012 to 5,061 total reports last year, with 3,768 unrestricted and 1,293 restricted.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement:
“The news of DoD’s latest report, coupled with the long list of recent bungled courts-martial and trivial punishments of those convicted, highlights the severity of the military’s sexual assault epidemic. We have all heard of the recent travesties of justice in the Naval Academy case and General Sinclair’s trial. The persistent stream of reports suggests the military is either unwilling or incapable of solving this crisis, and further underscores the need for strong action from our elected leaders, whose failure to support an objective, impartial military justice system for our troops makes them complicit.
“The DoD reports that last year there were 5,061 reports—a more than 50% increase from 2012. However, until the release of DoD’s biannual survey later this year, we will not know the reason for this increase—which could be due to more troops being attacked, or a result of the intense public attention to this issue. The DoD has released no evidence to prove its claim that victims have more trust in the existing military justice system or the treatment they have received.
“Regardless, even if assault rates have remained unchanged, the number of reports remains abysmally low. Whether victims reported 13% or 19% of total incidents is not the issue—in either case the overwhelming majority of victims are afraid to come forward. Last year, out of the 26,000 service men and women who reported unwanted sexual contact, only 2,558, less than 10% of victims, filed an unrestricted report. Assuming the same number of attacks occurred this year, unrestricted reports increased by only 4%, with 14% of victims making an unrestricted report. This shows a continued lack of confidence in the current system.
“Through our Pro Bono Network, we continue to hear daily from victims who are facing retaliation for coming forward, who are having their confidential records handed over to their rapists in court, and who are watching their perpetrators receive a slap on the wrist while they struggle to recover and maintain their careers under an unsupportive command. These victims often tell us they feel betrayed, and wish they had never reported at all.
“The military justice system, which gives commanders unbridled authority to sweep sexual crimes under the rug, has long failed and, unless fundamental reform is implemented, will continue to fail our troops. In order to provide blind justice, the military must give independent, professionally trained military prosecutors the authority to prosecute cases independent of commanders. This change would not just encourage reporting, it would ensure that perpetrators are appropriately prosecuted, convicted, and punished, and enable victims to develop faith in the military justice system.”
Politico: DOD under fire for farming out sex-assault survey
Washington Post: Fresh reports of sexual misconduct undercut Pentagon’s argument for internal fix
Stars and Stripes: Probe of Army general calls insular military culture into question
Washington Post: Army general disciplined over mishandling of sexual-assault case in Japan
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders 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 – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.
Protect Our Defenders partners with Attorney Susan Burke, Burke PLLC to advance lawsuits filed against the DoD and service academies for repeatedly ignoring rape, sexual assault and harassment, failing to prosecute perpetrators and retaliating against the victim.