Protect Our Defenders News Blog


STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders Responds to Sen. Gillibrand’s Report on Military Sexual Assault


May 4, 2015

*** STATEMENT *** 


Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released a new report on military sexual assault at the four largest military bases in the country. A review of 107 case files found high rates of assault against civilian women and military spouses. These two survivor groups are not included in Pentagon surveys on sexual assault, which call into question the accuracy of the number of victims and extent of the ongoing epidemic.

Senator Gillibrand’s report highlights that victims still do not have enough confidence in the military justice system to report their attacks, and that nearly half of the survivors who did report eventually declined to move forward with their case.

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

“This report is shocking. It exposes how many civilians are victims of the sexual assault crisis in our military and the depths the military will go to obstruct change. Clearly, the Pentagon has been hiding the ball from the American public and our elected officials. Military leaders continue to try and spin the scope of the problem with cherry picked information that only tells half of the story.

“This should be a wake up call for President Obama and anybody that thinks the military can solve this problem without creating an independent and impartial justice system. This ongoing, but solvable sexual assault crisis is costing our country hundreds of millions of dollars every year, while our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends have become victims in cities and towns from Washington, DC to California. How many of these rapists are now living in communities without any appropriate tracking? “

The full report is available online and an overview of the findings from Sen. Gillibrand’s office follows below.

  • In 53 percent of the cases, survivors were civilian women or military spouses.
    The case files documented assault against two survivor groups not counted within the DOD’s sexual assault prevalence surveys: 32 percent of reports were filed by civilian women; 21 percent of reports were filed by civilian military spouses. Given that these survivor groups are overlooked in survey data, the total survivor population may be far larger than current estimates. The DOD’s sexual assault report for 2013 – the same year as these case files – estimated 20,000 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact.
  • Majority of military spouses decline to pursue charges.
    In nearly 73 percent of the cases involving servicemembers’ spouses, the spouse declined to pursue charges of sexual assault. Only one case involving a military spouse moved forward, and the servicemember was acquitted.
  • Nearly half of survivors who filed an unrestricted report declined to move forward.
    Of the 104 cases where unrestricted reports were filed, 50 declined to move forward. Of the 50, many voluntarily submitted to the intrusive sexual assault evidence collect kit, only to suspend their cases later in the process. In the DOD’s most recent sexual assault report, 62 percent of women who reported a sexual assault perceived some form of retaliation – a rate unmoved from previous reports despite a commitment to change the climate.
  • Few cases move to trial, met with low conviction rates and less punishment.
    Of the 107 cases, 24 proceed to trial. Of the cases that proceed to trial, only 11 resulted in a sexual assault conviction; six were convicted of a lesser charge that carried more lenient penalties like administrative discharge or a reduction in rank versus confinement and dishonorable discharge for sexual assault conviction. The remaining seven cases that did proceed to trial were acquitted.
  • When conviction happen, the accused likely confessed.
    Of the 11 cases that did result in a sexual assault conviction, five included statements where the accused admitted to the crime.
  • When cases go cold, accuser likely to have denied it happened or claimed consent.
    In 34 of the 107 case files, the accused told investigators that the assault did not happen or claimed that the sex was consensual. Of those 34 cases, command took action just 10 times, and none of these cases resulted in conviction. Significantly, 27 of the 34 cases where the accuser denied the action or claimed consent did not go to trial at all.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Snapshot Review of Sexual Assault Report Files at the Four Largest U.S. Military Bases in 2013

Associated Press: Sen. Gillibrand accuses Pentagon of withholding sex crimes info

New York Times Magazine: The Military’s Rough Justice on Sexual Assault

Associated Press: Documents reveal chaotic military sex-abuse record

About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders (POD) 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. POD provides pro bono casework and legal assistance to survivors. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at