News Alert: KTVA is On-Air - Watch Now - Read More
  • 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

    Sitka family turns home brews into booming business

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 22, 18:05

    It’s 5 p.m. on a Friday in Sitka and Baranof Island Brewing Company‘s tasting room is packed. Residents are lined up out the door to get a taste of the brewery’s new Pumpkin Ale. The brewing company’s owners say business has come along way in just three years. “It’s been an overwhelming response,” said owner Rick […]

  • News

    Pebble Partnership sues EPA again

    by Sierra Starks, Hope Miller on Oct 22, 17:19

    The Pebble Partnership is again suing the Environmental Protection Agency, this time saying that the agency has been secretly meeting with environmentalists in an attempt to undermine the Pebble Mine Project. In a complaint filed Oct. 14, Pebble is requesting that the EPA produce documents that were “improperly withheld” after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) […]

  • News

    2 dead in shooting attack at Canada’s Parliament

    by CNN / AP on Oct 22, 12:08

    A Canadian soldier standing guard at a war memorial in the country’s capital was shot to death Wednesday, and heavy gunfire then erupted inside Parliament. One gunman was killed, and police said they were hunting for as many as two others. The bloodshed immediately raised the specter of a coordinated terrorist attack, with Canada already […]

  • Lifestyle

    Video game with Alaska Native storyline unveiled in Anchorage

    by Hope Miller on Oct 22, 12:03

    The first of its kind, a video game rooted in Alaska Native culture is set for release next month. Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is a one- to two-player puzzle-platform game. Set in the harsh and beautiful northern Arctic, it follows a girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion as they try to figure out what’s causing […]

  • News

    Anchorage police: 11-year-old runaways found safe

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 22, 11:12

    UPDATE: The two 11-year-old girls who ran away from an Anchorage middle school Tuesday morning have been found safe, says APD spokeswoman Anita Shell. Original story: Authorities are searching for two 11-year-old girls who ran away from an Anchorage middle school Tuesday morning, according to the Anchorage Police Department. Early Wednesday morning, APD was notified that Katelynn […]

  • Politics

    US Rep. Don Young apologizes after suicide comment

    by Associated Press on Oct 22, 10:22

    U.S. Rep. Don Young has apologized after telling students at a high school where a child recently committed suicide that people kill themselves when there’s a lack of support from family and friends. Wasilla High School Principal Amy Spargo says students and adults at the assembly took offense because it was as if they were […]

  • News

    Fairbanks schools won’t suspend recruitment

    by Associated Press on Oct 22, 8:24

    Administrators in the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna school districts have suspended military recruiting at schools after allegations of sexual advances by recruiters but officials in Fairbanks say they have no plans to limit visits. Fairbanks school board President Heidi Haas tells the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1DAFNUl) she’s not concerned about problems with recruiters at district schools. […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Oct. 22

    by Janessa Webb on Oct 22, 8:03

    Sunny skies will invade our space for the next two days. The tradeoff will be cooler conditions with daytime highs barely making it to 40 degrees. We have a system that is tracking in from the Southwest and it will make its way onshore tonight into Thursday. Areas of the Southcentral will start to see […]