Pentagon releases report on sexual assault risk

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

Both male and female Navy sailors serving aboard ships had the highest risk of sexual assault across the military, according to a study released Friday by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon-commissioned RAND Corp. study looked at sexual assault data from fiscal 2014, including survey answers from 170,000 active-duty troops, in order to rank military installations by risk of sexual assault.

“While there are no ships among the lowest-risk installations for women in the Navy, ships dominate the highest-risk installations. Of the 15 highest-risk installations for Navy women, 13 are ships or clusters of ships, including eight of the ten aircraft carriers,” the report said. “All but one of Navy men’s highest-risk installations are ships or clusters of ships, including five aircraft carriers.”

Friday’s release comes after USA Today reported in July that the report was being delayed amid a dispute between the Pentagon and RAND over its methodology.

The report released Friday lists two pages of “caveats and limitations,” including that because the data is from 2014 it may not reflect current risks.

Another caveat is sexual assaults were linked to specific bases because that is where the service member was assigned, not because the assault happened there. In other words, the assault may have happened while the service member was on leave or temporarily serving somewhere else.

While the report found several patterns, it said more analysis is needed to determine why.

“There appear to be several patterns in the list of high- and low-risk installations (such as high risk on ships and low risk at medical facilities); however, additional research is needed to understand and accurately characterize the structural, organizational or environmental factors that contribute to these patterns,” the report said.

For the Navy’s highest-ranking installations, RAND estimated that 10 percent of all women experienced a sexual assault at each over a one-year period. More than 15 percent of all women were assaulted at two of them, the report added.

For Navy men, on one ship alone RAND estimated that nearly one in every 25 men was sexually assaulted in fiscal 2014. The report does not name the ship.

More than 2.5 percent of men were assaulted on all of the ships in the highest-risk list, the report added.

Meanwhile, in the Air Force, sexual assault risk for women was on average lower than for women in other services, according to the report.

“Nevertheless, the highest-risk Air Force installation presents a one-year risk of 5.2 percent,” the report said.

The lowest-risk installations in each of the services were largely those in the Washington, D.C., area, medical centers and small bases that the report aggregated into postal areas, according to the report.

Following the report’s release, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he wants to hear more from the Pentagon about how it will the findings.

“One instance of sexual assault is too many and I expect the department to continue its vigilant efforts to minimize risk, support victims and hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable,” he said in a statement.

“I look forward to hearing from the department about how it plans to use this report to improve their evaluation, prevention, response and enforcement efforts at installations and commands across the Armed Services.”

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