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Document: Pentagon, Department of Navy Fiscal Year 2017 Sexual Assault Reports

The following is the April 30, 2018 Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military and the Department of Navy enclosure.

From the Report:

Sexual Assault in the Military

For over a decade, the Department of Defense has worked to advance a military culture free from sexual assault. The Department remains dedicated to its dual goals of encouraging greater reporting of sexual assault by Service members and reducing the prevalence (occurrence) of sexual assault within the military population.

Last year’s survey of Active Duty members found that the estimated past-year prevalence rate of sexual assault decreased to the lowest levels on record since the Department began measuring it in 2006. Reporting of sexual assault also increased in 2016. The Department estimates that it received a report from 1 in 3 Service members who experienced a sexual assault in 2016, a significant improvement from the 1 in 14 Service members making a report in 2006. These changes stem from a decade of progress in victim support, military justice, and prevention work.

Nonetheless, there is more to do to eliminate sexual assault from the military.
This report is the Department’s record of the data gathered and the actions taken to prevent and respond to sexual assault in Fiscal Year 2017.

New in Fiscal Year 2017

Sexual assault reports increased. The Military Services received 6,769 reports of sexual assault involving Service members as either victims or subjects of criminal investigations throughout fiscal year 2017. This represents a 9.7 percent increase overall from the 6,172 reports made in fiscal year 2016. Of the 6,769 reports of sexual assault, 5,864 involved Service member victims. Of those 5,864 Service member victims, about 10 percent made a report for incidents that occurred to them before entering military service. In sum, 5,277 Service members made a report of sexual assault in fiscal year 2017 for an incident that occurred sometime during military service, an increase of 10 percent from the 4,794 reports from Service members received last year.

Due to the lack of the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members this fiscal year, the Department is unable to make any assumptions with regard to prevalence of sexual assault and its relationship to reporting.

Restricted Reports converted at a higher rate. The Department of Defense offers Service members the opportunity to make either an Unrestricted or Restricted Report of sexual assault. Of the 2,196 Restricted Reports received in fiscal year 2017, 537 (or 24 percent) later converted to Unrestricted Reports, leaving 1,659 reports remaining Restricted at the end of the year. This rate of conversion is up from the 21 percent of Service members choosing to convert their reports in recent years.

About two-thirds of cases completed in 2017 received command action. The Department takes appropriate disciplinary action in every Unrestricted Report of sexual assault where it has jurisdiction and the evidence to do so. This year, the Department had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action in 62 percent of the cases of accused Service members within its legal authority. Disciplinary action was not possible for the remaining 38 percent of cases due to evidentiary or other factors, such as insufficient evidence of an offense to prosecute, a victim declining to participate in the justice proceedings, or other reasons.

Active duty focus group feedback reflects both progress and opportunities for improvement. The Office of People Analytics identified several overall themes developed from 54 active duty focus groups conducted around the world. Most notably, participants stated:

  • All levels of leadership play an integral role in preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment by modeling and encouraging positive behaviors. Participants with greater time in service also perceived that their leaders have made sexual assault a greater priority in recent years;
  • The military provides a supportive environment for reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment, but further efforts are required to address negative perceptions about training and other aspects of the program; and
  • Confusion remains about which behaviors constitute sexual harassment. However, participants stated that behaviors previously minimized, such as crude comments and inappropriate jokes, are now taken seriously.

Service members endorsed high levels of satisfaction with support. Responses from the 371 Service members completing the 2016-2017 Military Investigation and Justice Experience Survey documented high levels of satisfaction with services provided by Special Victims’ Counsel, Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, and Victim Advocates. Seventy-three percent of respondents would recommend other Service members report their sexual assault. However, about 40 percent of respondents indicated experiencing negative behaviors consistent with some form of retaliation associated with reporting sexual assault.

Prevention efforts supported future system-wide improvements. The Department concluded the first phase of the Applied Prevention Project, which involved on-site study of prevention initiatives at six military installations. The Department also continued to develop its Prevention Plan of Action, a coordinated, strategic approach to optimizing the prevention system within the military. These efforts provide an important knowledge base for future efforts designed to decrease the occurrence of sexual assault, empower safe intervention in risky situations, modify risk and protective factors within unit command climates, and leverage leadership’s central role in advancing workplaces that promote dignity and respect.

Response initiatives expanded the support and help available to Service members. The Department continued its work to professionalize first-responders through the Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program, expand outreach and services available through the Safe Helpline and Safe HelpRoom, and develop strategies to better serve the needs of male Service members who report experiencing sexual assault. In October 2016, the Department released the Plan to Prevent and Respond to the Sexual Assault of Military Men and worked to implement its provisions throughout the year. The Department’s response system aims to empower victims,
facilitate recovery, and encourage crime reporting. Plans to prevent and respond to retaliation became part of Service programs. Retaliation associated with reporting sexual misconduct harms the lives and careers of those involved, undermines military readiness, and weakens a military culture of dignity and respect.
To better address the range of retaliatory behaviors reportedly experienced by victims, the Department released the Department of Defense Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy Implementation Plan to operationalize solutions to issues outlined in the Department of Defense Retaliation Prevention and Response Strategy two years ago. The implementation plan provided a foundation for Service actions to standardize definitions, implement reporter protections, and provide training necessary to prevent such behaviors.

Way Forward

Next year, the Department will update its estimate of the past-year experience of sexual assault and sexual harassment using the Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members. This important survey effort not only helps us understand the extent of these problems within the active duty population, it also informs improvements in policy, programs, and practices. Prevention will continue to be a primary focus for the Department in Fiscal Year 2018. Recent research by both the Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will drive the ongoing development of the Prevention Plan of Action, which aims to optimize Department and Service prevention capabilities. In addition, the Department will continue its efforts to reduce and prevent retaliation associated with reporting and enhance the support rendered to Service members who report experiencing sexual assault.