• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
5m 5s

Military sex assault claims skyrocket; alcohol cited as main factor

By CBS/AP 4:25 PM May 1, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. –

Reports of sexual assaults by members of the military rose 50 percent after the Pentagon began a vigorous campaign to get more victims to come forward, prompting defense officials to order a greater focus on prevention programs, including plans to review alcohol sales and policies.

But officials are still unhappy with the low number of male victims who reported sexual assault, and they say there will be a greater emphasis in the months ahead on getting men to come forward and seek help. Final data obtained by The Associated Press show that about 14 percent of the reports filed last year involved male victims.

Defense officials said Wednesday that encouraging more men to report sexual assaults is a difficult challenge because male victims often worry that it will make people think they are weak and trigger questions about their sexual orientation. In most cases, however, sexual orientation has nothing to do with the assault and it’s more an issue of power or abuse.

“There is still a misperception that this is a women’s issue and women’s crime,” said Nate Galbreath, the senior executive adviser for the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office. “It’s disheartening that we have such a differential between the genders and how they are choosing to report.”

The Pentagon planned to release its report Thursday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was expected to call on 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. According to officials, alcohol was a factor in as many as two-thirds of the cases.

Under the military’s definition, a sexual assault can be anything from unwanted sexual contact, such as inappropriate touching or grabbing, to sodomy and rape.

While the number of reported 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. Overall, there were 5,061 reports of sexual abuse filed in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, compared with 3,374 in 2012, for a 50 percent gain. About 10 percent of the 2013 reports involved incidents that occurred before the victim got into the military, up from just 4 percent in 2012.

“There is no indication that this increase in reporting constitutes an increase in crime,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “We assess that this unprecedented increase is consistent with a growing confidence in the response systems.”

Over the past two years, the military services have increased awareness of the problem and treatment programs to instill more confidence in the system and get victims to come forward. Phone numbers and contact information for sexual assault prevention officers are plastered across military bases, including inside the doors of bathroom stalls. And top military officers have traveled to bases around the world speaking out on the issue.

Officials said prosecutions also have increased. Galbreath said the military was able to take some action against 73 percent of the accused perpetrators who were subject to the military justice system. In 2012 it was 66 percent. Some cases involve perpetrators who are not in the military so are not subject to commander’s actions or military courts.

Sexual assault has been a front-burner issue for the military, Congress and the Obama administration over the past year, triggering Capitol Hill hearings and persistent questions about how effectively the military was preventing and prosecuting assaults and how well it was treating the victims. In March, a bill from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to take sexual assault prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders and the chain of command failed to clear a necessary procedural vote.

Fueling the outrage has been a number of high-profile assault cases and arrests, including incidents involving senior commanders, sexual assault prevention officers and a number of military trainers.

At the same time, the military has long struggled to get victims to report sexual assault in a stern military culture that emphasizes rank, loyalty and toughness. Too often, victims have complained they were afraid to report assaults to ranking officers for fear of retribution, or said that their initial complaints were rebuffed or ignored. A 2012 anonymous survey found that about 26,000 service members said they were the victim of some type of unwanted sexual contact or assault.

A key finding in that survey was that, in sheer numbers, more men than women said they had been assaulted. About 6.8 percent of women surveyed said they were assaulted and 1.2 percent of the men. But there are vastly more men in the military; by the raw numbers, a bit more than 12,000 women said they were assaulted, compared with nearly 14,000 men.

The military, Galbreath said, needs to get the message out that this is not just a women’s problem.

“It’s not the damsel in distress; it’s your fellow service member that might need you to step in,” he said, adding that troops need to treat it like any other need for aid, just like on the battlefield.

As a result, Hagel was expected to order the military services to improve reporting by male victims and encourage them to seek assistance. In addition, he was to press for a renewed emphasis on prevention and the need to take some of the programs various services have been conducting and use them across the military.Those include programs that urge troops to intervene when they see a buddy in trouble or being harassed. And there now may be a move to work with bars and stores that sell alcohol around the bases to educate their employees, offer menus when they serve drinks and review hours of liquor sales.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Kodiak pot regulators approve residential growing

    by Associated Press on Jul 29, 8:32

    A group that advises the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly on marijuana regulations has decided to allow commercial pot growing in some residential areas. The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports the borough’s Marijuana Task Force met this week to discuss pot cultivation and approved a pathway for growers to begin operations on residential lots. Growers would be […]

  • Crime

    Man armed with baseball bat robs Wasilla gas station store

    by Associated Press on Jul 29, 8:25

    Alaska State Troopers are looking for a man suspected of robbing a Wasilla gas station convenience store early Friday morning while armed with a baseball bat. Troopers say the man forced a clerk to empty the cash register into a garbage bag. The suspect fled with just $24.59. Troopers and Wasilla police took calls on […]

  • Crime

    1 dead in early morning shooting; second homicide in 3 days

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 29, 6:27

    Updated at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, July 29 A man is dead Friday morning from apparent gunshot wounds after a shooting in Muldoon near Duben Avenue and Bolin Street. Anchorage police have deemed the shooting a homicide. Residents in the neighborhood awoke early Friday morning to the sound of gunshots. Just after 3 a.m., the […]

  • Crime

    Police: Woman attacked on East Anchorage trail

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 22:49

    The Anchorage Police Department is investigating an attempted sexual assault on a trail near East High School. According to a release, on Wednesday the woman was running on the trail, south of Bragaw Street and Northern Lights Boulevard, in a wooded area when a male attacked her from behind. Police said the male attempted to […]

  • News

    Mat-Su Farm Tours teach lessons in Alaska agriculture

    by Shannon Ballard on Jul 28, 21:48

    When it comes to tours of Alaska the options are abundant, but the focus of a new tourism business isn’t glaciers or reindeer, but agriculture. “It’s about general education to the public and getting to teach people from both in the state and Outside all about the diversity of agriculture here in Alaska,” Margaret Adsit, […]

  • Politics

    Hillary Clinton: ‘America is once again at a moment of reckoning’

    by CBS News on Jul 28, 21:31

    Last Updated Jul 28, 2016 9:19 PM EDT PHILADELPHIA – With her speech formally accepting the Democratic nomination Thursday night, Hillary Clinton capped off a week of oratory defending the strength of the American spirit and outlining the general election argument against Republican nominee Donald Trump. “America is once again at a moment of reckoning,” Clinton […]

  • News

    Alaska National Guard Day celebration on JBER

    by Bonney Bowman on Jul 28, 21:26

    National Guard members and their families celebrated on base Thursday. Alaska National Guard Day is officially July 30. The legislature passed an act a few years ago declaring the day as a way to show their appreciation. Thursday’s event included food and fun for families, as well as National Guard displays. Organizers say it’s a […]

  • Crime

    APD: Mother of 4-year-old reported missing charged with child neglect

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 21:16

    The mother of a 4-year-old girl, who went missing in Spenard on Wednesday, is charged with child neglect, according to Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Castro. According to Castro, the child’s mother was intoxicated and had passed out. A family friend saw it and took the girl to her home. The friend texted the child’s […]