The Battle Against Sexual Predators in the US Military

BlogHer Original Post

A woman who joins the US military probably expects to be exposed to life-treatening situations, traumatic violence and harsh living conditions. She probably doesn't expect to be raped by her comrades in arms.

Yet, for an alarming percentage of military women, that's exactly what happens, and according to a new Pentagon report, the number of reported cases of sexual assault is actually increasing, despite reported governement efforts to strengthen prevention programs, improve counseling services, and protect victims.

According to the study, 2,908 sexual assault cases were reported to the Armed Forces between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008. That's a 9 percent increase in reported cases over the previous 12-month period. Between 2002 and 2007, 66,342 military women reported experiencing "sexual trauma" -- rape, sexual assault, or other forms of abuse, according to a Jan. 2009 statementp on the website of Rep. Jane Harman (D.Calif) has introduced a bi-partisan "sense of Congress" resolution" urging military authorities to institute strengthen monitoring efforts by, for

Blogging at Huffington Post last fall, Harman bemoaned the lack of profesional oversight.,

"[A]ssaults and rape are drastically underreported for the familiar reasons - victims' perception that no serious action would be taken on their behalf; fear of ridicule and ostracization by fellow soldiers; and damage to careers of those who come forward. (Another report, DOD's 2006 Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty members, claimed that nearly 80% of soldiers who received unwanted sexual contact did not report it.)"

The authors of the new report insist that the increased numbers -- which have risen steadly over the last several years -- is a sign that victims feel safer about coming forward:

The overall increase in reports of sexual assault in the military is encouraging. The Department is seeking greater reporting of sexual assault so that it can better treat and restore resiliency to victims of sexual assault. The Department also encourages greater
reporting to hold offenders accountable for this crime. The Department expects that yearly increases in reporting will be an indicator of improved Service member confidence in the Department of Defense’s [Sexual Assault Prevention] program.

This is not a new problem. Last year, according to a write-up by Nancy Van Ness at, retired Col. Ann Wright shared research showing that one-third of US servicewomen have been sexually assaulted while in uniform. Her remarks included this harrowing anecdote, according to Van Ness:

"She described first hand accounts from witnesses and seeing photographs that document an atrocious rape that ended in the murder of a female US soldier in Iraq, which the military had reported as a suicide."

Citizens aren't leaving this matter up to Congress.

An advocacy group established by female veterans, the Service Women's Action Network, distributes pamphlets that quote women veterans who say they've been assaulted. about the risk of sexual assault. And the indefatigable Grannies for Peace is running a public awareness campaign.

What more can be done to protect our women under arms from the sexual predators in their midst?

Thanks to Blogher CE MataH for research help.

Related links:

  • 2006 article on alleged sexual abuse byr recruiters 
  • 2007 article on alleged sexual abuse by chaplains


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