Military sexual assaults rise nearly 38 percent in Pentagon survey

Military sexual assaults rise nearly 38 percent in Pentagon survey
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Sexual assaults in the military increased nearly 38 percent between 2016 and 2018, Pentagon data to be released Thursday show, according to figures obtained by USA Today.

A survey of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines personnel reportedly found that last year there were 20,500 cases of unwanted sexual contact, a term that covers groping to rape. A similar survey in 2016 found 14,900 such cases, USA Today reported.

The 2018 survey found more 85 percent of victims knew their assailants and that the demographic at the highest risk for assault was enlisted female service members between the ages of 17 and 24, according to the newspaper.

The Marine Corps reportedly had the highest rate of sexual assault among service members, at almost 11 percent, followed by the Navy, Army and Air Force.

"Knowing this is a highly under-reported crime, we have historically viewed an increase in reporting as an indicator Marines feel more empowered to report, more confident in the care victims receive, and have more faith in their leadership," a Marine Corps spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. "However, with the number of estimated sexual assaults rising, especially among our young Marines, the Marine Corps must evolve its prevention methods and continue to foster a climate and culture of dignity, respect, and trust."

 
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

"The [Department of Defense] must accept that current programs are simply not working," said Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierMomentum grows to create 'Do Not Track' registry Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, according to USA Today. "Congress must lead the way in forcing the department to take more aggressive approaches to fighting this scourge.”

The forthcoming report follows Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyOn The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump Senate defense bill would make military sexual harassment standalone crime MORE (R-Ariz.), an Air Force veteran, revealing in March during a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing that she was once raped by a superior officer. She called for military commanders to “stay at the center of the solution and live up to moral and legal responsibilities that come with being a commander.”

Updated at 12:44 p.m.