June 26, 2014 --
While the number of reported sexual assaults shot up sharply in 2013, defense officials said that based on survey data and other information, they believe the increase was largely due to victims feeling more comfortable coming forward.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered six initiatives for the military, including the review of alcohol sales which addresses the risks of alcohol being used as a weapon by predators who might ply a victim with drinks before attacking.
“Sexual assault is a clear threat to the lives and the well-being of the women and men who serve our country in uniform. It destroys the bonds of trust and confidence that lie at the heart of our armed forces,” Hagel said in an article written by Washington Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor titled “Pentagon encouraging male victims of sexual assault to speak up.”
The plans call for the military services to step up efforts to encourage troops to intervene in assault situations and work with military bases, and local communities to better train bar workers and promote more responsible alcohol sales.
Overall, there were 5,061 reports of sexual abuse filed in fiscal year 2013, compared with 3,374 in 2012, for nearly a 50-percent increase. About 10 percent of the 2013 reports involved incidents that occurred before the victims joined the military in 2012, according to www.cnsnews.com/news/article/pentagon-encouraging-male-victims-sexual-assault-speak.
Over the past two years, the military services have tried to increase awareness.
Phone numbers and contact information for sexual assault prevention officers are plastered across military bases, including inside the doors of bathrooms’ stalls, and top military officers have traveled around the world speaking out on the issue. Officials said prosecutions also have increased.
Nate Galbreath, the senior executive for the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office, said the military was able to take some action against individuals who were subject to the military justice system.
In 2012, 66 percent of the cases brought to their attention were prosecuted, according to the website, www.cnsnews.com/news/article/pentagon-encouraging-male-victims-sexual-assault-speak.
Some cases involved alleged assailants, who were not in the military so they were not subject to commander’s actions or military courts, the website stated.
Sexual assault has been a front-burner issue for the Pentagon, Congress and the White House over the past year, triggering Capitol Hill hearings and persistent questions about how effectively the military was preventing and prosecuting all offenses against victims.
Fueling outrage have been high-profile assault cases and arrests, including incidents involving senior commanders, sexual assault prevention officers and military trainers.
At the same time, the military has long struggled to get victims to report sexual assault in a stern military environment. Some victims have complained they were afraid to report assaults to ranking officers, which is to account for why many initial complaints were rebuffed or ignored.
In 2013, the National Crime Victimization Survey turned up a remarkable statistic. In asking 40,000 households about rape and sexual violence, the survey uncovered that 38 percent of incidents were against men, according to the website www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2014/04/male_rape_in_america_a_new_study_reveals_that_men_are_sexually_assaulted.html.
This startling statistic shows that the experience of men and women is “a lot closer than any of us would expect,” Lara Stemple, a researcher who works with the Health and Human Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles, said.
For some kinds of victimization, men and women have roughly equal experiences, the website stated.
Stemple concluded that we need to “completely rethink our assumptions about sexual victimization,” and especially our fallback model that men are always the perpetrators and women are always the victims, according to Hanna Rosin, author of the article, “When men are raped.”
For more information, call the Department of Defense’s Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247, visit the website, www.SafeHelpline.org or call 229-639-8896/5252.