Protect Our Defenders sets story straight: Dept. of Defense definition of “unwanted sexual contact” does not include sexual harrassment

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

June 20, 2013 Contact: Brian Purchia,

  *** STATEMENT  *** 


Washington DC – Today, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) spoke about the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the United States Military, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. Senator McCaskill incorrectly stated that some of the 26,000 reports of “unwanted sexual contact” in the military last year included instances of verbal sexual harassment. This is not true.

Senator McCaskill voted against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) last week.

Today, Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement:

“Today on MSNBC, in a response to a question about the increasing crisis of military sexual assaults, Senator Claire McCaskill incorrectly asserted that the 26,000 ‘unwanted sexual contacts’ includes ‘…somebody looking at you sideways and saying something about how nice you look in a sweater.’ This is not accurate.

The Department of Defense’s actual definition of unwanted sexual contact, ‘…involves intentional sexual contact that was against a person’s will or occurred when the person did not or could not consent. The term describes completed and attempted oral, anal, and vaginal penetration with any body part or object, and the unwanted touching of genitalia and other sexually- related areas of the body.’ Department of Defense, Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, FY 2012, page 12. The term requires that actual unwanted sexual contact occur – it does not include sexual harassment, or comments about how a person looks.

Sexual assault in the military is a vastly underreported crime and, until we have an impartial justice system, victims will continue to distrust their leaders and not come forward.

Protect Our Defenders sincerely hopes that Sen. McCaskill and other lawmakers will support the creation of an independent, impartial military justice system. This must start with giving professionally trained military prosecutors the authority to decide whether a case should go forward to trial. Congress should also mandate a system of random jury selection, to replace the commander’s current ability to personally hand select and therefore potentially stack a jury.

Those who serve our country should receive justice equivalent to that which civilians enjoy.”

MSNBC: Senator Claire McCaskill on Morning Joe (June 20, 2013)

Department of Defense: Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military (Page 12)

NYT: A Sexual-Assault Measure to Be Cut From Military Bill

USA Today: Why the military hasn’t stopped sexual abuse

PBS: Why the Military Has a Sexual Assault Problem     

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 or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at