• 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

    BioBlitz takes scientific snapshot of Arctic wildlife

    by Heather Hintze on May 23, 22:56

    The National Park Service celebrated its 100-year anniversary by holding BioBlitzes around the country. For the community of Anaktuvuk Pass on the North Slope, it was their first chance to hold an event like this in the Gates of the Arctic National Park. A BioBlitz is basically a scavenger hunt for scientists. “One of the main […]

  • Politics

    Special session off to sluggish start: Lawmakers still stuck on oil tax credits

    by Liz Raines on May 23, 22:44

    The first day of the special legislative session came and went, with legislators working less than two hours. The House and Senate gaveled in for brief floor sessions, but neither body held a single hearing. Last week, controversy over oil tax credit reform kept lawmakers from finding a compromise on a state operating budget before […]

  • Lifestyle

    Alaska woman invents special coat to protect small pets from eagles

    by Bonney Bowman on May 23, 21:44

    When a pair of eagles nested in Janet Wass’s former backyard, she wanted something to keep her small dog, Juju, safe. She did some research and “My Invisible Pet” was born. Wass made Juju a dog coat out of shiny, reflective material. The coat has a light on the back with a bright beam. “It […]

  • News

    Wasilla boy wins 3-wheeled bike, new sense of independence

    by Shannon Ballard on May 23, 20:22

    Riding a bike is a treasured childhood experience, but sadly, many children with special needs miss out. An eight-year-old Wasilla boy was one of them until recently. Eric Edwards was born with cocaine in his system and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other movement disorders that affect his ability to stand, sit and speak. He went […]

  • News

    Providence hospital to expand emergency department for children

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 23, 20:00

    Providence Alaska Medical Center has received permission from the state to add 13 new treatment rooms to its emergency department, raising the number of rooms from 37 to 50, including two trauma rooms. Providence CEO Dr. Richard Mandsager said 10 of the 13 rooms will be devoted to a new pediatric area that will focus on children […]

  • Lifestyle

    Alaska villages compete for energy project funding

    by Alexis Fernandez on May 23, 19:26

    Rural Alaska villages are competing for funding to pay for projects that will bring down energy costs in their communities. The competition launched in January, and is part of a $4 million grant awarded by the U.S. Deptartment of Energy (DOE) to rural Alaska for energy projects. A total of 67 communities applied for the […]

  • Lifestyle

    What does it take to garden in the Arctic?

    by Heather Hintze on May 23, 18:53

    The ground in Anaktuvuk pass has barely thawed but Casey Edwards is ready to get her plants in the ground. “Last year I had way too many. I was super ambitious,” Edwards laughed. “This year we’re just sticking to cucumber, cabbage, squash.” This is just her second year testing out her green thumb, seeing what […]

  • News

    BP plans to sell Midtown Anchorage office building

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 23, 17:56

    A BP spokesperson says the company has decided to sell its property on the corner of Benson Boulevard and Seward Highway and lease office space from the new owner. “This is a real estate transaction under which we become tenants rather than owners of the office building,” the spokesperson said, explaining the company would remain […]