*** STATEMENT *** VP BIDEN SUPPORTS EMPOWERING INDEPENDENT PROSECUTORS AS MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT REPORTS SURGE
Washington, DC – Today, the Pentagon released its Annual Report on Sexual Assault and Prevention (SAPR) in the Military a day after former Vice President Biden announced his support for empowering independent military prosecutors following a question from Protect Our Defenders Founder and CEO Nancy Parrish. Biden’s commitment comes on the heels of a Protect Our Defenders pledge launched earlier this year that garnered support from a majority of the presidential candidates.
Today’s Pentagon report, which provides a yearly review of the state of sexual assault across the four branches of the military, shows reports of sexual assault made to authorities increased from 7,623 to 7,825. This is a new record high in official reports. Out of the total reports, 5,699 were unrestricted while 2,126 were restricted — up 17% from last year — showing a clear lack of faith in the chain of command.
According to the report, a Mid-Enlisted female in the Navy said, “More information needs to be put out about the anonymous side of [reporting, and] calling the hotline instead of relying on your command…I think [we need more publicity] that there’s somebody right now [waiting to help] that’s a sexual [assault] advocate that’s not from your command.”
Also included in this year’s SAPR are the number of cases tried and convicted. In the last year, 363 cases were prosecuted, with only 138 convictions for rape or sexual assault. This means the military loses 62% of the few cases they take to trial. Additionally, commanders charge less than half the time (49%) where they have sufficient evidence that someone committed a sexual assault. This is a dramatic drop in prosecutions from 2013 when commanders preferred charges in 71% of the cases and is the lowest prosecution rate since at least 2010.
Protect Our Defenders has been fighting tirelessly to address systemic issues in the military court system, and is set to take a highly flawed ruling on the statute of limitations in the military to the U.S. Supreme Court this Fall alongside Air Force Veteran Harmony Allen.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United State Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“Last year was yet another year in which reports of sexual assaults in the military set a record high. After decades of empty promises by senior commanders claiming they have zero tolerance for sex offense, the military again failed survivors and the American people in 2019.
“Despite having tens of thousands of sexual assaults in the military each year, the archaic commander controlled system only managed to convict 138 sex offenders last year. Until the military takes seriously its obligation to rid its ranks of sex offenders, we will endure record numbers of sex assault and rape reports along with paltry levels of accountability.
“It is time for the military to finally support efforts to bring its justice system into the 21st century by empowering military attorneys with prosecution authority and ensuring all allegations are investigated by highly experienced and trained law enforcement agents.”
USA Today: Sexual assault reports in the military rise 3%, defying Pentagon efforts to eliminate the crime: https://www.usatoday.com/
Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Violence and Harassment at the Military Service Academies: https://www.defense.gov/
Forbes: Joe Biden Says He Would Take A Hard Line On Military Sexual Assault: https://www.forbes.com/sites/
CNN: Full Question from Protect Our Defenders CEO Nancy Parrish: https://twitter.com/
CNN: Democratic candidates back plan to change how military investigates sexual assault allegations: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/
CNN: Her rapist was convicted and jailed by a military court. Two years later, he was freed: https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/
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/